Community Colleges

Michigan CC Masters Student Transfer Processes

To counter a "complex and confusing" college transfer process, a community college in Michigan has dug in to figure out ways to simplify transfers for its students. The result, as explained in a new report from the Community College Research Center and a "playbook" issued by the project's lead investigator, is the development of 225 distinct plans with partner institutions intended to streamline the transfer process for students and improve their success rates.

Macomb Community College enrolls about 48,000 students each year in credit and non-credit courses as well as workforce training. According to Lead Investigator Donna Petras, a fall 2012 survey of incoming students found that most are interested in transferring to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor's degree; 47 percent "definitely" expected to transfer; and 41 percent said they thought they would, but they weren't sure.

In 2013 the community college set up a "university partners advisory council" (U-PAC) with 13 four-year institutions, with the intent of building its relationships with "key transfer destinations." All of the U-PAC members participated in the research project, which sought to understand the different types of transfer students, how well they did at various transfer destinations and what factors led to their success and failure.

Data was collected on Macomb students who moved into a four-year institution as transfer students between fall 2007 and spring 2009. Students were tracked through spring 2017 to understand how long they took to complete degrees. Eighty-three percent of students who ended up transferring during that period moved to a U-PAC institution. In total, 63 percent of the study sample finished their bachelor's degrees.

Among the big findings shared in the two reports are these:

  • Schools should prioritize transfer institutions with which to work based on student transfer data; three quarters of Macomb transfer students pursued completion of their bachelor's degree at four U-PAC institutions.
  • Bachelor's degree completion can be improved by prioritizing transfers; creating "clear programmatic pathways with aligned high-quality instruction"; and providing tailored transfer student advising.
  • Students who earned "excess credits" would be helped by colleges evaluating the credit requirements for degrees at their institutions and working with the transfer destinations to figure out why some credits may not be accepted.
  • The "transfer reform strategy" needs to incorporate a "guided pathways model" that is able to map the route for students to identify their goals, help them stay on the path for meeting their goals and make sure they learn the skills and knowledge appropriate to their chosen programs.
  • Colleges should identify transfer students earlier in their post-secondary pursuits — both those already in college and those in high school who expect to transfer from a community college to a four-year institution.
  • Faculty should be engaged in the transfer reform work to help improve course transferability.

"Collaboration with your transfer partners is essential," wrote Petras in her conclusion. "The more knowledge you share, the greater the potential for improving transfer student success!"

The full report, "Building Transfer Student Success at Macomb Community College: A Report on Transfer and Degree Completion," is openly available on the CCRC website. The "playbook" is openly available on the Macomb website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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