WASHINGTON (AP) _ Community colleges ''salvage hope'' for poor and minority students, but are failing to motivate them to go beyond the two-year programs, according to a study released Thursday.

''The transfer function of community colleges is in crisis,'' said the Academy for Educational Development report, which was funded by the Ford Foundation and published by the College Board.

Researchers Fred Pincus and Elayne Archer said two-year colleges are a critical part of the educational system and have an important role to play because they have taken ''on the awesome task of working to salvage hope for so many who have been given up on by others.''

But the researchers said it is equally important that community colleges work to ''provide paths of upward mobility'' by helping students transfer to four-year colleges.

Community or junior colleges usually are two-year institutions established to serve a certain community and often emphasize career, rather than academic programs. A large percentage of the students are low-income or minorities, as well as students seeking to upgrade skills with a few remedial or specialized courses.

The report agreed with the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges that those who attend a community college tend to be economically better off than those who attend no college.

But they pointed to a recent government report that showed the average annual income of individuals with bachelor's degrees is almost $6,000 higher than those with associate degrees and $7,464 higher than those with vocational certificates.

The report, ''Bridges to Opportunity,'' said a small percentage of community college students transfer to four-year schools and fewer yet actually get bachelor's degrees. It said the transfer rates are smaller for black, Hispanic, and Indian students than for white and Asian-American students.

Pincus said studies show that one-third to one-half of students say they enrolled in a community college to prepare for transfer to a four-year school.

But he said the current transfer rate is 15 to 25 percent of all community college students and 20 to 30 percent of those students who say they want to transfer. Only 10 to 15 percent of all community college students ever receive a bachelor's degree, he said.

To increase community college transfers, the report recommended that:

-Community colleges promote transfers by emphasizing both the intellectual and economic benefits of attaining the bachelor's degree.

-Community colleges might consider requiring that at least 25 percent of a student's grade in any course carrying transfer credit be based upon writing assignments involving some degree of critical thinking.

-Students who complete approved associate degree programs should be guaranteed admission with junior status to any public four-year institution in their state and not be required to repeat courses taken in the community college.

-States should develop financial incentives to reward community colleges that have successful transfer programs and federally funded scholarship programs should be created for low-income students who transfer to four-year colleges.