Recognizing that many talented, motivated students start their postsecondary education at community colleges, top four-year institutions are taking steps to encourage and ease transfers. According to federal statistics, nearly half of students who attain bachelor’s degrees begin at community college. Yet, “the firepower of those campuses and their students is often overlooked,” writes The New York Times.
That is changing, however, as groups such as the American Talent Initiative (ATI)—of which Georgetown University was a founding member—and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation champion stronger transfer pathways for academically gifted candidates. ATI earlier this year highlighted Georgetown University as one of 21 ATI members that have pledged to enroll more transfer students from community colleges.
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Students with varied experiences, strong drive to succeed
“There has been a shift in how we think of really talented students from different backgrounds,” Maud Mandel, president of Williams College in Massachusetts, told the Times. Transfer students, she continued, bring “a different kind of diversity” to campuses. “Most of us have lived a life before coming to college,” says Lara Meintjes, one of eight transfer students Williams enrolled from community colleges this year. In addition to varied life experiences, students transferring from community colleges tend to bring an ethos of “gratitude and drive,” writes the Times.
In community college students, four-year institutions also see an untapped pool of talent to counteract declining enrollments and stiff competition for first-year students. A recent report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation found that community college transfer students at highly selective institutions have graduation rates that exceed those of students who start their postsecondary education at four-year institutions.
Strong pathways key to transfer success
To attract and support community college transfer students, a growing number of private, four-year institutions are creating transfer arrangements with two-year schools. California community colleges recently convened to forge in-state transfer pipelines with 36 private colleges, and the New England Board of Higher Education this fall will bring together 60 community and private institutions with a similar goal.
Pennsylvania-based Muhlenberg College, meanwhile, has worked to address common barriers for community college students by offering counseling, scholarships, quicker transcript reading, and dedicated spots in each class for transfers. Quinnipiac University in Connecticut engages nearby community college students even before they transfer, inviting them to take several classes for free and welcoming them to participate in campus activities. “We have to create more different pathways,” Quinnipiac President Judy Olian said, adding that “there are whole segments of society that can’t just pick up for four years and head off to this great environment.”