ACE2018: Strengthening Transfer Pathways to Improve Student Success

March 14, 2018

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By Zainab Okolo

The challenges inherent in earning a bachelor’s degree are often exacerbated for transfer students by varying uncertainties and unclear pathways. Issues like limited access to accurate information or helpful resources; transfer credit loss; and enrolling in unnecessary credits often keep transfer students from realizing their academic goals.

Once enrolled in community college, few students transfer to bachelor degree-granting institutions and even fewer ever complete their associate’s degree. According to research from the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University (NY), 32 percent of the students who transfer from a two-year school to a four-year do so within four to six years. Of those students, only 34 percent earn an associate’s degree before transferring. Eventually, only about 14 percent earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.

To address these issues around transfer students and degree completion, experts gathered during ACE2018 to discuss important initiatives, resources, strategies, and research currently underway.

Panelists included John Fink, research associate from Columbia University; Alexandra W. Logue, research professor from The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY); and Christopher Mullin, director of Strong to Finish. Moderated by Jonathan Turk, senior policy research analyst for ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy, panelists shared their insights on how to best serve transfer students using accurate data, building cohesive articulation agreements between community colleges and universities, and ensuring transparency in the credit transfer process for advisors and students.

Logue shared her varied challenges building out a centralized CUNY system for transfer students, CUNY Pathways. Over seven years, in collaboration with a team of dedicated education professionals, Logue worked to ensure transfer students had a clear pathway from one CUNY school to another by addressing complex issues related to common core requirements and credit transfer. Despite pushback from various stakeholders, including professors and even the media, CUNY forged ahead to create a cohesive system that has successfully increased the number of students transferring to a bachelor’s degree program with an associate’s in hand by 40 percent.

Participants left the session with greater insights on how to better serve transfer students using clear data on credit transfer, well-coordinated and informed advising efforts, and student advocacy resulting in updated programing, resources, and improved outcomes.

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