Low-income students who transfer from community college to highly selective four-year colleges often excel academically and become student leaders, reports a study, “Partnerships That Promote Success,” by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Transfers do as well as students who entered as freshmen, Emily Froimson, director of higher-education programs at the foundation, told the Chronicle of Higher Education.
As part of the Community College Transfer Initiative, the foundation has awarded $7 million in grants to Amherst College, Bucknell University, Cornell University, Mount Holyoke College, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Southern California.
These institutions, which agreed to enroll 1,100 low-income community-college students, exceeded the goal, enrolling nearly 2,000 students.
About 65 percent of the transfer students were at least two years older than their classmates because they’d worked between high school and college, reports Inside Higher Ed. Forty-one percent were the first in their family to attend a four-year college or university.
High-achieving low-income students “will graduate at higher rates if they go to more selective institutions,” Froimson said. It “matters more, in particular, for low-income students in a way that it doesn’t for higher-income students.”
Selective four-year schools often have little experience with community college transfers and community college counselors may discourage students from aiming high.
“We have heard from some of our own scholars that their students are told, ‘You won’t fit in [at a selective college]’ or that ‘These types of institutions don’t take students like you,’ ” Froimson said. “Mostly, it’s just a lack of familiarity with these institutions or the fact that a [community college] counselor may have more familiarity with that state college down the street. In terms of transfer, it’s easier than they think.”
About 70 percent (of transfers) reported that “they were either well-prepared or very-well prepared for academics at the four-year institution.” Just a bit more than a quarter of them said they had had “serious academic difficulties during the previous academic year.” Finally, only 19 percent reported ever “having thought about dropping out.”
Students had to overcome a perception they weren’t prepared for the work, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, at some of the colleges and universities that participated, the report found.
I helped persuade an immigrant student — she’d arrived in seventh grade with no English and turned herself into a straight A student –to accept a scholarship to Mount Holyoke. She’d never been anywhere but Mexico and California and thought she wouldn’t fit in. I said, “What you need is a pair of boots. Keep your feet warm and dry through the winter and you’ll be fine.” She was. She earned a math degree in four years.