Posted: May 20, 2016
By Judith Brauer, Associate Director, National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students
The new playbook from the Community College Research Center and the Aspen Institute offers recommendations to both policymakers and front-line practitioners for improving transfer now, and guidance on issues needing more attention in the future. The findings and recommendations in this report point to the need for more systemic changes in our national tracking systems and accountability structures to provide more effective incentives to both two- and four-year institutions to support transfer students.
One important point made in this playbook is that the transfer conversation needs to happen earlier at both two-year and four-year institutions (and even at the high school level). Essential pieces of this conversation include: encouraging students to choose a major and a transfer destination early, as well as the multiple financial implications of moving from a two-year institution to a four-year school (or the reverse). As the playbook points out, these issues are inter-related because with better planning and guidance a transfer student can realize significant cost savings by starting at a two-year institution. Unfortunately, without this intentional guidance, transfer can actually end up costing students more money. Students who are planning to transfer should be advised on the range of financial implications. Staff need to be trained on the specific challenges that transfer students face. Cross-functional cooperation and communication serves transfer students well in this and all aspects of their transition.
The complex nature of transfer triggers financial changes on multiple levels and at varying points on a student’s path to a bachelor’s degree. Availability of financial aid can be negatively impacted by excess courses taken (or attempted) at the community college. And if there is not clear guidance, students may take courses that ultimately do not count toward their desired major. In addition, their transition may also involve a change in their living situation and employment status. And there is almost always an increase in tuition rates when the student transfers to a four-year institution. The Playbook highlights the significant disparity in resources committed by four-year institutions for scholarships and other financial aid for first time freshman students compared to transfer students.
The National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS) supports the need for increased financial aid and scholarships for transfer students. Some four-year institutions, like those highlighted in the Playbook, offer transfer specific scholarships for high achieving students. And organizations like Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society for community college students, encourage institutions to increase scholarship funding for their members. In addition, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the Kaplan Education Foundation both provide scholarships and intensive support for low-income, high achieving community college students. It is particularly encouraging to see the Kaplan model that prepares students to enter highly selective universities. These students are not only being accepted into these highly competitive programs, but also winning full scholarship packages. Both the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and Kaplan Educational Foundation are examples of scholarship providers who realize that truly supporting transfer students takes more than just writing a check. While these efforts are making a difference, more resources are needed to support high achieving, low-income community college transfer students.
The Playbook is not a cookbook– it offers no secret sauce or magic wand– but it does provide good guidelines and specific examples of promising practices. Supporting transfer students is critical in order for us to reach our national degree completion goals. NISTS is proud to be the only national organization focused solely on supporting transfer students. For more information, download our most recent publication, Transition and Transformation: Supporting Transfer Student Success.
Posted on May 20, 2016 in the category Blog.