A transfer fair at Cerritos College in California.
Though 80 percent of the 1. 1 million community college students who enroll each year intend to transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree, only
about 14 percent of them end up getting a bachelor’s
degree within six years, according to a 2016 report
from the Community College Research Center at
Columbia University’s Teachers College.
However, more than 50,000 community college
students each year are well prepared for a four-year university— 15,000 of whom have earned at
least a 3. 7 GPA—yet they fail to transfer, according
to Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program.
In addition to solving money issues, Aspen opined
that both two-year and four-year schools need
to better advise students on their pathways and
ensure that those pathways move along smoothly
Across the nation, state community college systems and individual colleges are heeding this call,
taking steps to create better partnerships, ensure
that credits transfer, undertake outreach to students, and support them at each step along the way.
Jessica Saxon, an English faculty member at Craven
Community College in New Bern, North Carolina,
articulates the importance of such partnerships.
“This is a relatively rural part of the state,”
says Saxon, who doubles as Craven’s adviser
for the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence
Program, or C-STEP, a program launched in 2006
by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
to encourage transfer students. “A lot of high
school students here have not thought about
Chapel Hill as a possibility. It’s only three hours
away, but it sometimes feels like a whole uni-
verse away. The earlier we talk to them about the
benefits of transfer, the more they realize this is
something that’s attainable for them—that there
are students like them in these places that feel
CALIFORNIA PROGRESSING ON ALL FRONTS
California has made some of the most sweeping
moves on this front, starting with a 2010 state law
that mandated creation of a pathway for community college students into the California State
University system. More recently, the University of
California system announced that it was moving
in the same direction, and the state’s community
colleges are working with three dozen private colleges and universities, as well as historically black
colleges and universities, to do the same.
The state’s Student Transfer Achievement
Reform Act requires that students who earned
an Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) at one
of the state’s 114 community colleges would be
guaranteed admission to CSU (but not a particular
campus) if they had earned at least 60 semester
(or 90 quarter) units and maintained a 2.0 GPA;
and that they would have junior status with no
requirements that they repeat similar courses
within their area of study.
“This is a transparent way to offer students a
pathway from a community college to a four-year
institution for a bachelor’s degree,” says Paul Feist,
vice chancellor for communications at California
Community Colleges. “One of the advantages is, if
they transfer and for whatever reason they don’t
finish a four-year degree, they have an associate
degree, which has value in the labor market.”
A 2013 amendment to the act laid down a time-
frame, requiring community colleges to develop
ADT’s by 2015-16 and then finalize a Transfer Model
Curriculum within 18 months. The academic
senates of the CSU and community college systems
worked together to develop the model curricula,
and then faculty at each of the 114 colleges decided
which degrees to offer.
Although faculty and administration have
been supportive, Feist says the major challenge
initially was getting the word out to the students.
“We have a statewide marketing campaign that we
have been running for the past several years, both
on the ground outreach to prospective students
and community college students,” he says.