Colorado’s Front Range Community College (FRCC) was recently featured in a report about successful transfer-student partnerships between community colleges and four-year institutions. The Transfer Playbook: Essential Practices for Two- and Four-Year Colleges is the result of a study by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
FRCC’s strong transfer partnership with Colorado State University (CSU) was one of six collaborations featured in the report because a high percentage of FRCC transfer students successfully complete bachelor’s degrees at CSU within six years. To be included in the report, the colleges needed to show “intentional, replicable practices” related to their transfer success.
“We’ve learned that our transfer students are almost equally as likely to earn their bachelor’s degrees from CSU within six years as students who natively began their studies at CSU,” says FRCC President Andrew Dorsey. “I think that says a lot about the quality of our work.”
Dorsey points to the following ways that FRCC has strengthened its transfer success:
“We’re not going to offer classes that don’t transfer.” It has long been FRCC’s priority to ensure its classes give students credits they can use elsewhere. That’s also one of the key, ongoing themes of the AACC Pathways Project, in which FRCC actively participates.
“We’ve identified our key transfer partners.” FRCC works closely with the top four four-year institutions to which its students transfer. CSU is at the top of the list. FRCC administrators and faculty start by assuming that most of their students will transfer to these institutions; then, they use those universities’ program and incoming-student requirements to build FRCC’s programs.
“For instance, we learned that CSU preferred for science majors to take a research-methods class before entering their junior year at CSU,” Dorsey says. “That wasn’t a traditional part of our pre-transfer curriculum, but we added it.”
“We create strong faculty connections.” FRCC instructors often reach out to colleagues at the transfer-partner institutions, particularly CSU. According to Dorsey, these personal relationships help FRCC faculty better understand the skills that the four-year institutions expect from transfer students.
“We’ve identified our top-transferring majors.” FRCC knows the most likely transfer students major in biochemistry, biomedical sciences and psychology at four-year universities. With that in mind, the college obtained a $1.2 million National Institutes of Health grant, which was used to help create FRCC’s Bridges to Baccalaureate program.
This detailed pathway allows FRCC biology and psychology students to transfer into CSU with full junior-level standing. The grant also allows FRCC to offer students success coaching, research workshops and research opportunities at CSU.
“We closely monitor pre-transfer students.” Electronic methods make it easier for FRCC advisers to monitor students who are on their way to earning four-year degrees and to intervene if they start to get off track. For instance, the college alerts students when they register for classes that typically won’t transfer to a four-year institution. Faculty members can also identify students who are struggling in their pre-degree coursework and offer extra help or recommend a different course of study.
“We’re streamlining our curriculum.” FRCC is refining its developmental-education sequence. Instead of requiring students to take four or five classes before they’re ready for college-level math, students may now be able to take just two classes. The same is true of the English-readiness sequence.
“We found that students were giving up because they either failed some of the early classes or were frustrated at having to take so many prep classes,” Dorsey says. “We worked on ways to streamline the content and requirements.”
“We are clear about our mission.” Everyone at FRCC knows the college’s goal isn’t just to get students in the door — or later, in the door of a four-year institution. “That’s not enough,” Dorsey says. “Our mission is to see that as many of our students as possible move all the way through to earning that bachelor’s degree. We’re doing everything possible to make that happen.”