Helping Community College Students Transfer

By Dennis Pierce

Northern Oklahoma College offers two successful programs that move students to local universities to get four-year degrees.

Northern Oklahoma College (NOC) has two successful programs that help students continue their education at Oklahoma State University (OSU) or Northwestern Oklahoma State University (NWOSU).

Each year, the Gateway Program at NOC’s Stillwater campus prepares about 2,000 students to transfer to OSU by helping them meet academic requirements in math, English or other areas.

A separate program, called Bridge Access to Success, allows students to apply for admission to NWOSU before they graduate from NOC and to earn a scholarship of up to $1,900 to help pay for their four-year degree.

Because of the Gateway Program, “we are the second largest transfer institution to OSU,” says NOC President Cheryl Evans. What’s more, “our transfer students have a higher graduation rate than transfers from any other institution, because they are prepared well in a small setting.”

How the two programs work

In the early 2000s, NOC’s president at the time was exploring partnership opportunities with OSU and learned that the university needed help with developmental education. To fill that need, NOC opened a branch campus in Stillwater in 2003 by leasing space in a mall across the street from OSU.

NOC’s Stillwater campus mainly prepares students who want to gain admission to OSU but don’t yet have the grades or required courses to do so.

“We call it ‘finishing orange,’” Evans says, referring to OSU’s school color, “so they can go across the street and earn their baccalaureate.” That’s different from the college’s mission at its other two locations, she says, “where the goal is to complete an associate degree.”

Once students earn 24 hours of transferable college-level credit through NOC Stillwater, with at least a 2.25 grade-point average, they can apply online to OSU. Gateway students who apply to OSU from high school but don’t meet the university’s admission requirements have their application fee waived when they transfer from NOC.

Another key to the program’s success is that students are acclimated to the OSU culture. “They attend classes at NOC, but they live in OSU housing and they participate in OSU student activities,” Evans says.

To ensure alignment between NOC Stillwater courses and OSU’s academic needs, faculty from the two institutions meet regularly, Evans says. All NOC Stillwater general education courses are transferable to OSU, and OSU advisers are available to meet with students in the Gateway Program to make sure they are prepared to transfer.

“We have several meetings throughout the year, where we talk about what’s working well and what we can do better, and we have a Memorandum of Understanding that we update annually,” Evans says. “We continually improve the partnership every year.”

The Bridge Access to Success program was established about 10 years ago. “Northwestern [OSU] was interested in making sure that the students who started at NOC’s Enid campus finished their [four-year] degree at Northwestern,” Evans says. “So we created a scholarship program, where students earning an associate degree at NOC would automatically earn a scholarship for attendance at Northwestern,” provided they have a GPA of at least 2.0.

The scholarship isn’t the extent of the partnership between the two institutions. “Our campuses are right next door to each other, and we actually developed a physical bridge connecting the two campuses so our students could walk back and forth easily,” she says. “We share services and fill in gaps for each other, and we try to coordinate our student services and activities.”

Both partnerships are “about relationships, and institutions wanting the best for their students,” Evans says. “I think sometimes people try to categorize the different tiers of higher education and treat them separately, but they’re really interconnected. We all play a part in the success of students.”

Dennis Pierce

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

You May Also Like