The online magazine of the University of Texas System
How The University of Texas System is Helping Community College Students Advance and Excel
Why is the Community College Initiative important to The University
of Texas System?
Well, first and foremost, it's a partnership that can help students succeed and that's important for the UT System, Texas A&M, community colleges and the state at large. As community colleges overwhelmingly enroll minorities, low-income and first-generation students, this initiative offers us a widespread opportunity to reach students that better reflect Texas diverse demographic. Let's not forget, the number of college-age freshmen grows larger every year and we need to provide access to affordable higher education opportunities for each of these students. Community colleges can help us achieve that goal. For many students and their families, community colleges offer a bridge to higher educational achievement that can reduce overall costs, provide a quality education and smooth the transition from public secondary education to university life.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 36
percent of community college students plan to transfer to a four-year
institution, and only about half of them succeed. Why are the numbers so
Considering the number of minority and first-generation college students who choose community colleges as their point of entry, those statistics are especially poignant. Part of the problem can be attributed to our failure to generate higher expectations from students, but we must also examine state efforts to encourage and facilitate transfers. We have 50 community college districts and 35 public universities in Texas, making it doubly important to examine every area of post-secondary education policy to ensure it supports our goal of increasing transfer rates to four-year institutions across the state.
How can policy changes increase transfer rates?
There are big picture changes we need to implement that address the issue of transfer, but there are also policy changes we can make immediately that will have an impact on student success. Take reverse transfers, for example. If we can find a way to allow students to easily transfer credit back to the community college they attended so they can complete their associate's degree, we not only allow the student to achieve an important milestone, but also ensure the community college is credited for that student achievement. With our current focus on graduation rates we should be careful that community colleges are not penalized for transfers who do not complete an associate degree by counting them as dropouts. We also believe incentive funding is an important piece of the transfer solution - universities and community colleges should receive supplemental funding for each transfer student.
Is the initiative looking at ways to offer transfer students
financial support for tuition?
Absolutely. Around the table we have representatives from the UT System, Texas A&M, and community colleges across the state and we all understand that tuition costs are an important part of this discussion. We need to be doing everything we can to make it easier for students to move on to four-year institutions — from recruiting to providing scholarships that help absorb the costs of higher tuition. Traditionally, four-year institutions shower the bulk of their financial aid on first-time freshmen. But it makes sense for us to ease the transition for transfers by setting aside scholarships for them and, perhaps, devoting loan forgiveness programs for those who complete their baccalaureate degrees. Whatever it takes, we need to make sure more young people understand that more education equates with a higher quality of life, and that there is more than one way to achieve their educational goals.
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