ERIC Identifier: ED310832
Publication Date: 1989-08-00
Author: Cohen, Arthur M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Junior Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Commitment to Transfer. ERIC Digest.
The community colleges have had a commitment to transfer since their
beginnings. One of their initial purposes was to take students from secondary
school, provide them with general education and introductory collegiate studies,
and send them on to senior institutions for the baccalaureate. An associate
degree recipient was presumed to be qualified to enter the junior year at a
university. The associate in arts and associate in science have always been
viewed as preparatory; the few associate degrees that were not designed for
transfer were given titles such as associate in applied science or associate in
Accusations that the community colleges
do not prepare their students sufficiently well for transfer have arisen because
the proportion of students entering the colleges with the intention of
transferring and the proportion of those who did in fact transfer dropped
notably during the 1970s and early 1980s. According to Medsker (1960),
two-thirds of the students entering community colleges in the 1950s sought
transfer. By the 1980s, that proportion had dropped to one-third. Around
one-third of the students actually transferred in the 1960s. Twenty years later
that proportion had dropped to under 15 percent.
Patterns of student attendance also reveal shifting priorities. The community
colleges enroll 37 percent of all students attending higher education in America
and, 48 percent of all the undergraduates. However, 65 percent of the community
college students attend part time (Fernandez, 1987) and many already have
college degrees. Some college district figures reflect this differentiated
pattern of student attendance. Among the Maricopa Community College District's
60,000 students, 7,000 were formerly enrolled in Arizona State University,
whereas 8,700 Arizona State University students were formerly enrolled in the
Maricopa colleges. Furthermore, although 45 percent of the high-school graduates
in the Phoenix metropolitan area enter one of the local community colleges, they
account for only 8 percent of the district's full-time equivalent student
enrollment (de los Santos, 1989).
INFLUENCES ON TRANSFER RATES
There is no question that
students enrolling in community colleges are somewhat less likely than four-year
college students to attain baccalaureate degrees within four or five years. The
part-time attendance pattern certainly accounts for some of the difference
between community college matriculants and those entering as freshmen in
four-year institutions. Since few community college students reside on campus or
have on-campus jobs, they tend to be less involved with their collegiate studies
than their four-year college counterparts.
The mere fact that community college matriculants must transfer from one
institution to another before obtaining the baccalaureate accounts for some of
the shortfall. Many things can happen in the process: students take jobs
instead; they find that they cannot readily leave their hometowns to go to the
university; it becomes convenient to step out of education for a while and get
on with other aspects of their lives.
One of the widely held misconceptions about the reasons fewer students who
begin their college careers at community colleges obtain baccalaureate degrees
is that the colleges emphasize occupational studies and courses that do not
carry transfer credit. However, more students transfer from so-called career
programs than from the traditional baccalaureate directed programs. Career
education does not undermine transfer from community colleges; rather, the
transfer function is weakened by institutional policies that support the idea of
the college as a passive resource available to all who would drop in at any time
during their lifetimes to take a course in whatever interests them at the time.
These policies result in a lateral curriculum, one in which prerequisites to
courses are not enforced and in which student progress toward program completion
is not monitored.
The effects of such policies are revealed not only in the low rate of program
completion, but also in the high rate of student satisfaction. Although 85
percent of community college students do not obtain degrees, a similar
proportion say that the college provided them with what they were looking for:
courses for personal interest, access to the job market, or studies basic to
their becoming functionally literate. While the organization and funding of
community college instructional programs presuppose that students are taking
courses in order to complete an entire program, students are quite satisfied
with education short of the degree.
EFFORTS TO BOLSTER THE TRANSFER FUNCTION
colleges have attempted to increase their transfer rates by monitoring student
progress, providing information on transfer opportunities, enforcing course
prerequisites, holding special group meetings for prospective transfers, and
similar interventions. Remedial studies have become so prominent recently that
they now account for as much as one-third of the instructional budget, and
represent the third major function of the community colleges, behind only
academic and occupational studies. The colleges provide basic literacy studies
for sizable proportions of their students, including non-native English
speakers, as well as those leaving high school without the ability to read or
write. Some of the most innovative instruction is done in the remedial area.
Testing students at entry and again at the sophomore level has become
prominent and boasts to have an effect on the transfer figures. Colleges in
several states are either required or urged to test students at entry and place
them in programs in which they have a chance of success. That alone would
account for much of the increase in remedial work. Florida has had such a
program for several years, and more recently a requirement for basic skills
assessment has been introduced into Texas. Rather than mandating testing states
such as California award additional monies to colleges that impose matriculation
tests and seek to augment their transfer-directed activities.
These special funds for transfer have
become prominent. In 1987, eleven states were making special monies available to
colleges to enhance transfer-directed activities. California set aside $3
million for transfer centers in 20 colleges. Colorado and Michigan mandated
articulation plans between community colleges and public universities. New
Jersey awarded special funds to its colleges to recruit transfer-oriented
minority students. Ohio awarded funds for colleges that would promote such
activities (Center for the Study of Community Colleges, 1987). Illinois had
numerous special programs to enhance minority student progress through the
community colleges. These included recruiting and counseling high school
students, providing basic skills activities for adults, and connecting the
community colleges with elementary schools and intramural support groups
(Illinois Community College Board, 1989).
These types of transfer-directed activities have been summarized in many
works including those by Donovan and others (1987) and Richardson and Bender
(1987). Most of the interventions are well intentioned and will eventually have
some effect. However, some major changes must be made if the community colleges
are to come anywhere near parity in the proportion of their entering students
who go on to receive the baccalaureate. There should be statewide agreements to
the effect that any student who completes an associate degree program is
guaranteed admission to the university with no loss of credit. There should be
special funds set aside for community colleges that increase their percentage of
transfers. Every state should have a centralized student data base so that
interinstitutional progress can be monitored. And there should be common course
numbering systems so that each student's transcript does not have to be reviewed
Probably the most important single statement
that can be made regarding student transfer is that the community college staff
members must identify the potential transfers early on and monitor their
progress through the colleges, making frequent direct contact with them until
they complete their studies and enter the universities. This takes a form of
dedication to student achievement that stands in contradistinction to the
prevalent laissez-faire approach to student attendance. The colleges cannot sit
by and allow students to take a random walk through the curriculum and at the
same time expedite student progress toward the baccalaureate.
Center for the Study of Community Colleges. "An
Assessment of Urban Community Colleges Transfer Opportunities Program." Los Angeles, CA: Center for the Study of Community Colleges, 1987. 200pp. (ED 293 573)
Donovan, R. A.; And Others. "Transfer: Making it Work." Washington, DC: American Association of Community and Junior Colleges, 1987.
Fernandez, R. "Enrollment in Colleges and Universities, Fall 1985. OERI Bulletin." Washington, DC: Center for Education Statistics (OERI/ED), 1987. 17pp. (ED 280 353)
Illinois Community College Board. "Current Issues in Transfer Articulation Between Community Colleges and Four-Year Colleges and Universities in Illinois." Springfield: Illinois Community College Board, 1989. 19pp. (ED 304 168)
Medsker, L. L. "The Junior College: Progress and Prospect." New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960.
Richardson, R. C.; Bender, L. W. "Fostering Minority Access and Achievement in Higher Education." San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987.