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Research on Student-Athlete Transfers

A 2018 study from the National Student Clearinghouse estimates that 39% of all undergraduates who initially enroll in a four-year institution transfer schools at least once. Given the academic concerns associated with transfer (for example, longer time to graduate and lower probability of earning a degree), the NCAA collects substantial data on this topic with which to inform member discussions and potential NCAA legislation. Key findings include:

  • Student-athletes transfer less often than their nonathlete peers (Gallup, 2020), but there are some sports in which athlete transfer rates may exceed those for nonathletes (e.g., men’s basketball, tennis).
  • While members of the undergraduate population most frequently transfer for academic reasons (Li, 2010), student-athletes are most likely to report transferring for athletics reasons, including playing time, mismatch between their athletics expectations and their experience, coaching issues, and the hope of playing professionally in their sport. (NCAA GOALS study)
  • 13% of current Division I student-athletes transferred from another school. Rates of transfer from two-year and four-year colleges vary substantially among Division I sports. (Transfer Composition of Division I Teams)
  • Over the past several years (prior to the establishment of the NCAA transfer portal), the percentage of 2-4 and especially 4-4 transfer has increased in a number of Division I sports.(Transfer Composition of Division I Teams)
  • The percent of 4-4 transfers on Division I men’s basketball rosters has increased in each of the past two years. Nearly all of this increase occurred prior to the establishment of the transfer portal. However, of those transferring from their Division I team, nearly half leave Division I, which is a pattern that has remained fairly consistent in the last 5 years. (Tracking Transfer in Division I Men’s Basketball)
  • Only 0.6% of Division I student-athletes are “graduate transfers.” However, as more student-athletes compete as postgraduates, the number of graduate transfers has increased in some sports. (Prevalence of Graduate Transfer in Division I)
  • The two-year degree completion rate for graduate transfers (50%) is lower than for graduate student-athletes who remain at their undergraduate school (70%) and is substantially lower  in Division I football (31%) and men’s basketball (34%). (Academic outcomes for Division I postgraduate student-athletes)
  • The proportion of transfers is substantially higher in Division II than in Division I. In Division II, 18% of student-athletes transferred from another school. The rate of transfer is higher among men than among women. (NCAA Division II transfer dashboard)