Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy





First Advisor

Janice N. Friedel


The traditional transfer pathway model has been challenged over the past few decades in more than one way through various forms of reverse transfer. Reverse transfer students are a large general category of students that begin at a four-year institution and transfer to a two-year institution. Townsend and Dever (1999) write that the term reverse transfer does not adequately describe the many different types within this subpopulation of community college students, and that early research failed to identify reverse transfer subgroups. Post-baccalaureate reverse transfer students (PRTS)—are a group of students that challenge the general perception of the traditional education path. PRTS are students who have already earned a degree at the bachelor’s or master’s level and have then chosen to enroll again at a community college (Townsend, 2000; Townsend & Dever, 1999).

The purpose of this study was to understand the motivations behind the enrollment of students at a large, public, community college in the Midwest who have already earned an associate's degree or higher by: (a) examining demographic and motivational differences among postbaccalaureate, postassociate, and non-degree students, and (b) identifying which factors matter most to PRTS when making the decision to enroll at a community college. The study was conducted through the lens of human capital theory. Human capital theory is based on the premise that both individuals and society obtain economic benefits from investment in people (Sweetland, 1996). The assumption for this study is that students invest (enroll) in higher education in order to gain economic benefit, which could be increased wages, personal satisfaction, or changes in employment status.

A quantitative methodological approach was used to determine associative and predictive factors that lead to PRTS enrollment at a community college. This study utilized the Postbaccalaureate Reverse Transfer (PRT) Survey as the instrument to identify and measure characteristics and motivational factors for postbaccalaureate reverse transfer students that enrolled at a large, public community college in the Midwest. The PRT survey was designed specifically for this study to allow participants to self-identify as PRTS and indicate their educational and employment information to be analyzed in order to better understand the population. Participants were students above the age of 18 enrolled at a large, public, Midwest, community college. Data were collected through an online Qualtrics survey, and analyzed using SPSS statistical software.

This study contributed to the existing literature of postbaccalaureate reverse transfer students by (a) adding students that had previously earned an associate’s degree to the research, (b) adding recent research to a topic that has been stagnant for almost a decade, and (c) following up on two exploratory descriptive studies regarding PRTS in Iowa to provide a more in-depth analysis on the group of students. The findings from this study showed there were significant differences between non-degree and PRTS at each degree level. Findings from this study are informative to community college administrators, leaders, educators, and researchers interested in knowing more about various community college student groups.

Postbaccalaureate reverse transfer students (PRTS) are a category of students that have been enrolling at community colleges for decades, but primarily go unnoticed by the institutions they attend. The additional focus on postassociate students may encourage other researchers to study this group that seeks to earn an additional associate’s degree before transferring or entering the workforce. Understanding and seeking to enroll more PRTS could lead to increased enrollments and completions at community colleges, and more skilled employees to fill gaps in the workforce.


Copyright Owner

Kelly L Friesleben



File Format


File Size

130 pages