In this study, we explored experiences of Ontario students who engaged in a university-to-college (UTC) transfer. Data was
collected through qualitative interviews with 20 participants who began their post-secondary journey in a university program
but left before completing it and subsequently pursued a college program. We focused on motivations for transfer, the decision-
making process, and participants’ reflections on their decision to transfer. Framing the transfer decision within a model of
educational decision-making that draws on Rational Action Theory (RAT) and Bourdieu’s habitus, we argue that motivations
for leaving university were distinct from, though related to, motivations for pursuing college. Reasons for leaving university
were clustered around three themes: academic struggles, mental/physical health/special education need struggles, and future
prospects. These were highly interconnected and characterized by difficulties, from mild to severe, coping with university.
Motivations for pursuing college were more practical, relating to subject interest, college learning environment, location, and
future prospects. Both decision processes showed evidence of rational cost-benefit analysis characteristic of RAT, but within
a framework of habitus-influenced ideas about success and identity. While most participants reflected positively on their
decision to transfer, there were some negative reflections related to a sense of personal failure and/or the negative reactions
of others, particularly parents. Personal and external negative reflections were tied to cultural and societal expectations about
high achievement and perceptions of university education as superior to college education, again showing the influence of
habitus. We conclude with policy recommendations.
Keywords: post-secondary education, post-secondary transfer, Ontario, education policy