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Transfer programs are a growing option for students

While local community colleges and four-year institutions have long been teaming up to offer 2+2 and articulation agreement programs, more students are now showing interest in these educational options.

“As far as students wanting to think about their future and planning out the four years, with four-year school tuition increases there have been more students asking about 2+2 as well as articulation agreements,” says Tanya Lane-Martin, assistant dean for enrollment services and director of admissions at Genesee Community College.

Articulation agreements and 2+2 are similar programs that allow students to gradually immerse themselves in higher education by starting their degree at a community college and then transferring to a four-year institution. An articulation agreement guarantees that transfer students will enter their four-year school as a junior after two years at a community college as long as they have completed their associate degree. Additionally, all of their credits will be transferable from the community college to the four-year college.

A 2+2 program, on the other hand, allows transfer students dual admission into a community college and a four-year college in their first year as an undergrad with just one application. Again, their credits are transferable.

“The 2+2 is a more formal program, so it tends to be comforting for students to know that they’re all set after the two years (at the community college),” says Kristen Hargrave, transfer coordinator for Academic Advisement at Genesee Community College.

“I think (transfer programs) give stu-dents the push they need, and it locks them into something that they might have wanted to get into as a freshman, but for financial reasons or because they’re not ready to leave home—or any reason, really—they’re starting at the community college,” says Holly Preische, associate director of transfer services at Monroe Community College.

But some students are less sure about their future when it comes to college. These students can find guidance from community college staff to devise a more individualized education plan rather than a 2+2 program. 

“For students who perhaps know they will get a bachelor’s degree but don’t necessarily know what it will be in or where they will get it, a community college is always a great place to start,” says Lynne Van Zandt, assistant director of transfer admissions at Nazareth College.

When students opt for a more individualized transfer program, they may take more time to choose a major that is best suited for their interests and a four-year college that they would like to attend after community college. In the meantime, students can take a variety of courses at the community institution as they navigate their way toward a major.

As 2+2 programs and articulation agreements become increasingly popular as a result of tuition hikes at four-year colleges and the growing financial constraints that many families worry about, community and four-year college advisers work closely together to make sure that transfer students are able to move on to their four-year college seamlessly—without wasting any time or money.

“We help to foster personalized relationships between individual students and a four-year representative, whether that’s an admissions or an academic representative,” says Andrea Hemmerich, student services counselor at Finger Lakes Community College. “We work as a team to help the students pick classes here at FLCC that are beneficial for completing our degree and are also very transfer friendly for the four-year school that they’re intending to enroll in at the end of two years.”

Jose Perales, interim vice president for enrollment management at St. John Fisher College, concurs with Hemmerich.

“I think that as much as you can set up a general process for students, especially when it comes to transferring, each student’s situation will be different from another,” he says. “It’s paramount to the process and the success of the student individually that they have a contact person (at both schools) that can answer the most individual questions for them.”

With supervision and support from counselors at both the community college and the transfer school, students gain confidence in their ability to obtain the education they want.

“I think that students who are part of (transfer programs) have a goal and have the guidance to achieve the goal from the minute they begin at the community college for those who enroll in a formal program,” Perales says. “In that way, I do think it’s motivational for the student to continue on in their program.”

Articulation agreements and 2+2 may even encourage greater motivation from students as they work toward achieving concrete goals: obtaining an associate degree, transferring to a four-year institution and then earning a bachelor’s degree.

“They know they have to maintain a certain grade point average,” Hargrave says. “They know they have to complete course requirements and degree requirements in order to transfer. So (transfer programs) not only motivate students, but they give them more guidelines and structure.”

In terms of the local educational landscape, many local community colleges and four-year schools agree that transfer programs help students develop a higher education experience that suits their individual needs.

“When different institutions are talking to one another about curriculum and the best ways for students to have an educative experience, then we can really see the different perspectives between the two-year and four-year colleges,” Hemmerich says. “The conversations that are being held and the programs that are being established, implemented and maintained are positively affecting the landscape of higher education.”

Furthermore, transfer programs have become more of a gateway to higher education and four-year universities for many local students.

“For students who may not have been eligible for admission at some of these four-year colleges, coming to a community college first provides access to higher education,” Preische says.

Lane-Martin agrees, saying, “GCC is taking students that would never consider college as an option, and we’re creating a pipeline for them so that when they do get into (the four-year college) it’s seamless and there are no obstacles.

“We’re offering students something that they felt was well beyond them—moneywise as well as confidencewise,” she adds.

Hemmerich views transfer programs as a means of coaxing students who might not be ready for a four-year institution right out of high school onto a pathway to higher education. Some students may not be ready to take on the financial burden of a four-year college or are not ready for the life-changing event that college is. Transfer programs permit students in these types of circumstances to begin their degree in an environment close to home.

“(Transfer programs) are opening doors for students in different ways and toward different paths,” she says. “It’s always a forward momentum towards their goal—our shared goals, really—of students getting their associate degree and then moving on to their bachelor’s degree and successfully graduating from both colleges.”

Nicole Sheldon is a Rochester Business Journal intern.

8/12/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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