Coalition of elite institutions strengthening transfer pipeline from community colleges

Encouraged by the results of a pilot program designed to expand pathways to elite colleges for community college students, the American Talent Initiative (ATI) is urging institutions to build on the effort’s success. The coalition of over 130 top colleges and universities (of which Georgetown is a founding member), developed the Transfer Scholars Network (TSN) in 2019 to provide a web of support for high-achieving two-year college students transferring to four-year institutions, Forbes reports.

TSN, funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and created with support of the Aspen Institute College Experience Program, advances ATI members’ mission to recruit, enroll, and graduate 50,000 additional students from low- and moderate-income households by 2025, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The TSN pilot program began in January 2021, and officials are eager to expand its outreach, given that transfer students still make up a small share of the students attending highly selective four-year universities.

“There is incredible talent within community colleges, including high-achieving students who should, based on their merits, have access and opportunity to take advantage of all that the leading colleges have to offer,” Tania LaViolet, director at the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, tells Forbes. “We cannot have true equity in higher education if there is not a path for students across the nation to transfer from community colleges to highly selective institutions.”

Related: In transfer students, 4-year schools see untapped talent pool >

Diversifying transfer pipelines to four-year institutions

During the course of its 18-month pilot program, TSN has connected 372 students—called transfer scholars, who demonstrated academic achievement, transfer readiness, and financial need—to 14 four-year institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, and Spelman College. Scholars also received ongoing support from admissions leaders from highly selective universities and financial aid and scholarship resources.

TSN recruited a diverse group of community college students. Seventy-one percent of transfer scholars were students of color, and almost three-fourths came from families making yearly incomes of less than $50,000, Aspen Institute leaders write in Inside Higher Ed. Six in ten were first-generation college students, and at least 20% of transfer scholars who applied to participating four-year institutions were offered admission, compared to an average admission rate of 15.6% at these schools, according to Forbes. Over two-thirds of the students who received admission enrolled in one of the partner institutions, and dozens of other students enrolled in other highly selective colleges. 

Officials plan to grow the TSN to include more institutions and increase support for students. They also are calling more broadly for two- and four-year colleges to collaborate to ensure community college students know the academic opportunities available to them and have the support they need to thrive in highly selective four-year colleges.

“If higher education is to deliver on its promise of economic opportunity,” said Giuseppe Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, “stronger pathways between community colleges and selective institutions need to be in place.”

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