Bradley M. Gottfried, president of the College of Southern Maryland (CSM), regrets not finishing his associate degree before transferring to a four-year college. Because he left before completing two full years of community college, Gottfried ended up paying higher tuition for the credits he could have earned before transferring. He says it cost him thousands of dollars.
Gottfried hopes a new scholarship only for students earning associate degrees before transferring will encourage students to avoid his mistake.
Funded by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, the 2+2 Transfer Scholarship requires students to maintain a 2.5 GPA while completing an associate degree at any community college in the state and to demonstrate a financial need. Applicants can qualify for $1,000 or $2,000 per year at a Maryland public or private nonprofit four-year university.
“Parents are wising up that starting at a community college is the pathway to an affordable education,” says James Spence, senior coordinator of transfer services and articulations at the College of Southern Maryland.
Over the years, CSM has played an active role in helping its students transfer as well as learn about scholarship opportunities; in 2014 the transfer rate at the college climbed to more than 20 percent. Gottfried tells his own transfer story during his speech at graduations. Getting your associate degree first opens the door to more scholarship opportunities and eases needless student-loan debt, he says.
During the year, transferring remains in the spotlight at CSM. Information is promoted via social media, monthly e-newsletters to students and weekly bulletins to faculty. Staff and faculty members also keep an eye out for students who have the potential to transfer or an interest in doing so.
Each semester, the school’s Transfer Success Academy reaches about 40 students through a series of sessions that prepare students for applying, adjusting and beyond.
The financial decision
But getting into a four-year institution and winning scholarships are just part of the process. Understanding the cost of further education is also on students’ minds. Following community college with two years at an in-state four-year university can cost about $8,000 per year, according to the Maryland Manual On-line.
Is the scholarship’s award of $1,000 or $2,000 a year enough to encourage students to transfer? “Yes, every bit helps,” says Spence. “And this isn’t the only scholarship offered to our community college students.”
For example, Spence says Frostburg State University offers a scholarship of up to $2,500 to community college students who complete an associate degree with a GPA of 3.0. “The bottom line is universities know our [community college] students are valuable. Our students know it, too,” Spence says.
These scholarships are helping more than ever. “We had students who were very worried about their ability to afford an education without getting into deep debt,” Gottfried says.
Before it’s too late
The biggest challenge at CSM, aside from financial decisions, is that students wait until they have 45 to 60 credits to make an appointment with the transfer department.
“At that point, they have taken the wrong math sequence for the four-year university to which they’re applying,” Spence says. “They may have to take up to an extra semester of college courses to complete their degree.
“We encourage students during their first semester at orientation to make an appointment to see one of the transfer specialists. If we catch students in the first semester, we can increase their chances for success for four years and beyond.”
And now, students will know about this scholarship opportunity earlier.
How is your community college supporting its transfer students? Tell us in the Comments.