Academic Performance of Native and Transfer Students

John Krieg, Western Washington University


In the Fall quarter of 2009, Western Washington University enrolled about 900 transfer students, one-third of the incoming freshmen class that quarter. More transfers were later admitted in the winter and spring quarters. Given the large numbers of transfer students attending Western and the likelihood of increased reliance upon transfers in the future, it is important to understand what, if any, performance differences exist between transfer and native students. This report compares academic success of natives and transfers using two measures: grades earned after achieving 90 credits and earning a Western degree. In order to make as precise comparisons as possible, this paper pools transfers and native (non-running start) students over a 7-year period (Fall, 2002 through Fall, 2009). To make transfers and natives as comparable as possible, excluded are all natives who fail to earn 90 credits and all transfers who arrive at Western with less than 90 credits. The remaining 23,951 observations of students are at roughly the same place in their academic careers; both groups need to earn about 90 credits to graduate and both should begin to be focusing on their major and upper division coursework. Basic descriptive statistics suggest that natives hold a significant advantage over transfers in their probability of graduating. Of the 11,784 native students who achieved 90 credits at Western, 64.6% eventually graduated while 51.6% of transfer students who came to Western with 90 or more credits graduated. On average, native students also earn higher GPAs than transfers. In courses taken after their 90th credit, natives average GPAs of 3.13 while transfers who come to Western with 90 credits average a GPA of 3.02. However, if one restricts the sample to students who attempt 30 credits at Western (after earning their 90th), native and transfer GPAs are statistically identical (3.15 v. 3.14). What appears to be happening over those first 30 credits is t