During his time as CEO of the Louisiana community and technical college system, as well as his 10-year tenure at the helm of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Dr. Walter G. Bumphus has been outspoken about the challenges that still plague students transferring between two-year and four-year institutions. The most notable challenges include the increased financial expense students incur due to a loss of credits, extended time to degree, and the extreme case where the previous two challenges are so daunting that students drop out without completing an associate or bachelor’s degree.
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) data clearly show that African-American and Hispanic students do not transfer and complete bachelor’s degrees at the same rate as Caucasian and Asian students. Likewise, adult students ages 24 and older are not transferring at the same rates as traditional college-age students. And depending on how an institution defines first-generation students, educational attainment of parents may influence transfer rates.
These facts, along with the visible spotlight that now shines on systemic racism within our society, has led us to the question of why equity in transfer and why now? It is the desire to level the playing field so that all students have equal access to the American Dream.
The Equity Transfer Initiative
As an African-American and first-generation college student, equity in transfer has been a labor of love for me. It is not lost on me that I could have easily been counted in the NCES and NSC data. Having developed and refined AACC’s plans to start a major initiative to increase completion rates of underrepresented students since 2018, it gives me great pleasure to announce the launch of the Equity Transfer Initiative (ETI), a two-year project made possible through generous support from ECMC Foundation and Ascendium Education Group.
“I am delighted to see this project finally come to fruition. As a part of AACC’s Unfinished Business initiative, it is vitally important for community colleges to close the equity and achievement gaps. The Equity Transfer Initiative is not designed to take anything from our high-achieving Caucasian and Asian students, but to focus on new and evidence-based equity strategies that will ensure the successful completion of degrees that lead to family-sustaining wages,” Bumphus said in response to news that the project would be funded.
The two-year ETI will be offered in partnership with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). AACC, AASCU and APLU members can apply to participate in the project, receiving transfer coaching support to teams/consortium as they advance their work plans. Those plans will include:
- An assessment of the current and/or newly proposed relationship between two-year and four-year institutions to identify obstacles and develop response strategies that lead to a strong transfer relationship.
- A review of current and/or new transfer pathways through an equity lens, specifically identifying evidence-based equity strategies or new innovative equity strategies that allow students to matriculate without losing credit and time to degree.
Partnerships/consortia will also have access to technical assistance provided by subject matter experts, participate in convenings to teach and learn from each other, and inform the development of train-the-trainer tools that colleges interested in strengthening their transfer pathways can use.
ETI’s overall goal is to ensure the total alignment of at least five programs between the two- and four-year institutions that lead to employment. Partnerships/consortium will select their pathways for expansion or development based upon Labor Market Data and regional data resources in their respective communities.
Participating institutions will also look at strengthening student support services and ensuring that culturally competent counseling, among other interventions, are considered as viable ways to serve these students.
AACC understands that equity in transfer is a heavy lift for any institution, but the work can yield great rewards. First is student satisfaction, as students will no longer have to retake courses that they have already completed, which is costing more money and extending time to degree and entrance to the workforce.
The second benefit is implementing equity strategies, which ensures that all students have access to a high-quality education that considers the barriers impacting their success, ultimately leading to family-sustaining wages.
Lastly, colleges will see improved completion rates by ensuring that the alignment of programs includes completing the associate degree.