For many of our students, community college is not only a road to an associate degree — it is the beginning of their pathway to a four-year college. In fact, a nationwide survey found that nearly 60 percent of community college students transfer to a four-year institution. Because transferring is a key goal for a large proportion of our incoming students, our job as educators and administrators is to make achieving this goal as easy as possible.
Our colleges should make it a priority to provide community college students with a seamless transfer process, allowing them to complete their degrees — both associate and bachelor’s — in a timely and affordable manner. One way we can facilitate transfers is to identify potential transfer students early in their community college careers and reach out to them with support.
As soon as students set foot on our campus, we can help by providing a road map for the transfer process, from helping them decide on a major and complete general-education requirements to strengthening their writing and math skills to providing financial planning advice. Leaders from baccalaureate institutions around the nation named recruitment, enrollment planning, financial aid and academic support as key steps to improving the transfer process for students moving to four-year institutions.
We should also work on improving partnerships between community colleges and universities to strengthen the transfer pathway. For instance, we can collaborate with neighboring institutions to ensure that students don’t lose any of their hard-earned credits upon transferring, thus accelerating the journey to a bachelor’s degree.
Iowa State University, for example, has developed the Admissions Partnership Program (APP), through which transfer admissions counselors regularly visit Iowa’s 15 community colleges to provide support to students looking to transfer. Students who participate in APP receive credit evaluations showing how the courses completed at their community college will apply toward an Iowa State degree.
By taking these steps and making seamless transfers a priority, our community colleges can provide students with the support they need to reach their educational goals. As many students choose to begin their higher education at community college, our leaders can play a key role in guiding them through an associate degree and on to a bachelor’s.