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It’s common for community colleges to have articulation agreements with four-year universities within their states, giving students a fairly seamless transfer. Now, some universities are reaching beyond state borders to help students earn a bachelor’s degree.
The University of Maryland–University College (UMUC) has nearly 80 alliance agreements with two-year colleges across the nation. Just under half of the university’s students have transferred from a community college, and many of them are taking advantage of UMUC’s 50 online degree programs while staying in their hometowns.
Alliances lead to degrees
Like community colleges, UMUC—which has a physical campus and offers online programs—is an open-enrollment institution. The student body is diverse and the non-traditional student is the traditional student, according to Lisa Romano, UMUC’s associate vice president of college and university partnerships. In other words, UMUC’s student body resembles the student body of a community college.
UMUC is the top transfer choice for students in Maryland. After working closely with community colleges in the state, the idea grew to “provide an educational continuum” for students outside of Maryland, as well, Romano said.
“It seemed like a natural fit to align with community colleges to create seamless transfer opportunities,” she said.
UMUC allows students to transfer up to 70 credits from the two-year college, including credits for core classes toward their major, which can speed up time to completion of a bachelor degree.
“Everything we have built in the alliance program is about completion,” said Romano, who herself was a community college transfer student.
Creating, maintaining partnerships
That was one of the things that appealed to the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), one of UMUC’s partner colleges. The district has agreements with more than 35 four-year colleges and universities, and is approached by others so frequently that a transfer advisory group was formed to vet potential partners.
“Anytime we look to develop a formal partnership, we are looking for something over and beyond what currently exists,” said Rose Rojas, director of transfer and academic partnerships for MCCCD. “They determined UMUC was a great partner because of the benefits to students.”
The partnership, like all of MCCCD’s partnerships, is reviewed annually, using the district’s metrics of success. Those metrics include growth, presence on campus and information sharing. Rojas said the advisory group has found UMUC to be a “model partner.”
Thirty-nine Maricopa students transferred to UMUC during the 2010-2011 academic year.
Roadmap to success
Another appealing piece for MCCCD was the fact that UMUC made its presence known to students. A representative is often on campus and the university often appears on the college’s events calendar. That was “critical,” Rojas said.
Often with transfer agreements, the student services piece is missing, according to Romano. UMUC tries to “strip down the barriers” for students by making sure there’s transparency in how their credits will transfer and “providing them with a roadmap.”
UMUC also saves transfer students money by waiving the application fee and offering scholarships for students who have completed an associate degree before transferring. Many students who transfer before completing the degree may still be able to get it through reverse transfer.
The university is working to make sure their students understand the benefits of completing a degree in preparing them for upper-level coursework.
It’s a “meaningful accomplishment,” Romano said, and “motivates them to persist.”
Access for all
Kansas State University (KSU), a land-grant institution, has a philosophy of getting education into the hands of everyone. The university is reaching outside of Kansas to do it. It has five partnerships with out-of-state community colleges, including Central Texas College (CTC), Illinois Central College and Metropolitan Community College in Missouri. KSU is hoping to grow that number over the next few years.
Students are drawn to KSU’s “unique online degree offerings,” such as dietetics, said Jennifer Pfortmiller, affiliate site manager for KSU’s division of continuing education.
KSU doesn’t offer all general education courses online, so online transfer students must enter the university with at least 30 credits completed and be ready for upper-level coursework. They’re encouraged to earn a degree before transferring.
Students also have a meeting with KSU’s student services to ensure that the university is a good fit for them. Though KSU doesn’t yet have representatives on out-of-state campuses, the university takes advantage of technology to virtually meet with students “face-to-face,” said Pfortmiller.
For both KSU and UMUC, access extends overseas, as well, to students in the military.
“UMUC goes where the troops go,” Romano said.
CTC, which has agreements with both universities, already offers online courses for those in the military. The partnership between institutions allows those students to move right into earning a four-year degree and continue learning “wherever they are,” Pfortmiller said.
Copyright ©2012 American Association of Community Colleges