With enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities down by 1.3 million students since spring 2020 and the number of students transferring from two-year to four-year institutions falling 11.6%, educators are re-examining the upward transfer pathway. Specifically, institutions hope a combination of guaranteed and dual admissions—in which students are accepted to both two- and four-year degree programs simultaneously—can help community college students more easily matriculate into four-year colleges and universities.
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Transfer students in need of programmatic support
Community colleges can be a more affordable starting point for students, as two-year college tuition averages $3,800 a year, in comparison to the $10,740 average in-state tuition at four-year public universities and $38,070 average tuition for private four-year universities, according to The Hechinger Report. However, community college students often face a number of barriers when they attempt to transfer to four-year institutions, says John Fink, a senior researcher at the Community College Research Center (CCRC). While the gaps have become highly visible since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, “Our transfer system, or nonsystem, was failing students even before [that],” Fink explains to The Hechinger Report. “It was extremely ineffective and inequitable, and now it’s in even more of a crisis.”
Eighty percent of community college students intend to matriculate into four-year degree programs, but only 25% of them do so within five years, the CCRC finds. Additionally, the average student transferring from a two-year institution to a four-year college loses an estimated 26% of their credits, increasing their costs and their time-to-degree, Fink explains.
New programs aim to erase transfer pitfalls
Hoping to remove obstacles, several two- and four-year institutions throughout the country have established transfer programs that not only guarantee enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs but also provide financial and academic support. While some of these new programs are relatively small, 3,000 students have signed up for the the ADVANCE program connecting Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University, with 1,000 students projected to matriculate by fall 2022, says Jason Dodge, the ADVANCE director for George Mason, who himself transferred from community college to a four-year university.
These programs also assign advisors from four-year universities to community college students so they “can start having conversations with a faculty advisor on our campus before they have their first class with us,” says Jonathan Green, president of Susquehanna University. “With some helpful advising, they can literally step into the major here and finish in [a combined total of] four years,” he explains.
Students in these programs do not have to reapply to transfer or pay application fees or admissions deposits, The Hechinger Report says. Some dual and guaranteed admissions programs, like those at Susquehanna University, Moravian University, Pace University, and DeSales University, also offer scholarships ranging from $20,000 to $32,000 to participants who maintain certain grade-point averages.
Academic advisors connected with these programs ensured 20-year-old computer engineering major Amoni Hall took the prerequisite courses she needed to transfer seamlessly from Valencia College to University of Central Florida through the DirectConnect guaranteed transfer program. Advisors also helped Natalie Shirk transfer from Harrisburg Area Community College to Susquehanna after she completed her associate degree. Through the university’s guaranteed admission program, all of her credits transferred, except for one she earned from an online gym class, and she got a $32,000 scholarship when she entered as a junior. Thanks to the partnership between her community college and Susequehanna, Shirk says, “I didn’t have to stay behind and be a sophomore or start over as a freshman.”