The Tackling Transfer Policy Advisory Board recently highlighted Maryland as one of only three states to offer financial aid that is specifically targeted for transfer students. Established in 2014, Maryland’s 2+2 Transfer Scholarship is designed to financially support students transferring from community colleges to four-year institutions in the state. Students who obtain an associate degree from a Maryland community college before transfer and earn a 2.5 GPA or higher are eligible for awards of $1,000 to $2,000 per year, with higher amounts going to those pursuing workforce shortage fields of study (e.g., teaching, STEM). Demand for the scholarship requires that the applicant pool be ranked on academic merit and need. There is a waiting list each year for the award.
To better understand the recipient pool and its postsecondary outcomes, we — the Maryland Higher Education Commission — conducted a preliminary analysis of over 500 students who received the scholarship since 2014. Several positive findings provide insight into possible ways to strengthen the program. We highlight those findings here.
Demographics of Recipients
Compared to the general undergraduate student body in Maryland, there is an overrepresentation of African American recipients of the 2+2 scholarship. Additionally, almost half of the scholarship recipients receive student loans, suggesting that students rely more on additional state/federal grants and scholarships to fund their educational costs.
Figure 1: Profile of 2+2 Transfer Scholarship Recipients
25 and above
Hispanic (of any race)
Black or African American
American Indian/Alaska Native
Two or more races
Financial Aid Profile
Receive federal aid
Receive additional state aid
Receive grant aid
Receive additional scholarships
Have unmet need over $10K
Almost all 2+2 Transfer Scholarship recipients stay for a second year at their initial transfer institution, and the renewal rate of the 2+2 Transfer Scholarship is high: around 85 percent of students renew their award for at least a second year. And the vast majority of recipients graduate with a bachelor’s degree within three years of their first 2+2 Transfer Scholarship award. Taken together, 2+2 Transfer Scholarships recipients not only persist but also complete.
Figure 2: Outcomes of 2+2 Transfer Scholarship Recipients
Completed a degree in the same institution in three years
Time to degree completed at the same institution
Still enrolled in the same institution one year after first award
These results warrant cautious interpretation. The award’s criteria noted above (namely the GPA ranking) mean the most academically high-achieving students are selected for the award and are possibly, independent of the award, more likely to persist and graduate than the general population. Additional caution is necessary, too, because the recipient sample pool is very small compared to the 270,000-plus undergraduates enrolled in Maryland colleges and universities each year. The 2+2 Transfer Scholarship targets a unique population of students in the state, but the nature of the scholarship naturally limits its scope and impact.
In conducting this analysis, we found ourselves asking several questions to contextualize our findings. These questions may prove helpful as other states (or colleges and universities) consider a transfer-specific scholarship.
- What is the purpose of the scholarship? Certainly, the scholarship financially supports transfer students in Maryland. Does it, alone, incentivize transfer to a four-year institution for those who would not do so otherwise? Should it? Is the scholarship, in and of itself, changing transfer behavior or would the recipients have transferred without the scholarship funds?
- Relatedly, if the scholarship is intended to incentivize transfer, how should the scholarship be awarded? A GPA requirement is very common in scholarships. And we know demand is higher for this award than the state can supply. However, by including a GPA requirement for an already unique population, are we only benefiting students who would have transferred and completed a bachelor’s degree regardless of their scholarship award? As an alternative, would a lottery system better incentivize transfer, particularly for students on the fence about transferring?
- Is the amount of the scholarship “enough”? Our analysis demonstrates that almost all 2+2 Transfer Scholarship recipients continue to have unmet need, calculated here as the gap in college costs after all aid and expected family contribution is subtracted from the cost of attendance, with over half of the 2+2 Transfer Scholarship recipients having unmet need over $10,000. More and more, students work to piece together financial aid opportunities to fund their higher education. Is $1,000 to $2,000 enough? Is there something unique about transfer students and their financial aid needs compared to the general population of students attending college? Certainly, the cost of a four-year degree is greater than the cost for a degree or award at a community college. Instead of smaller scholarship amounts awarded to more recipients, should more funding be awarded to fewer recipients? Or should the scholarship be used for unique costs found at four-year institutions, such as housing?
Clearly, this preliminary analysis of Maryland’s 2+2 Transfer Scholarship has brought new questions for us to consider. In addition to the scholarship, Maryland has worked to address academic issues related to transfer. Most recently, legislation passed in the 2021 session established the Transfer With Success Act, requiring campuses to communicate with one another regarding the denial of transfer credit or courses. We are currently working with institutions to revise regulations and provide guidance. We are hopeful this will shed light on the academic challenges transfer students experience in Maryland. Taken together, a unified approach to supporting transfer students both financially and academically will improve the community college pipeline and expand equitable economic opportunity and success.