Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Community Colleges Are The Critical Link to the Access Pipeline

January 31, 2007- In the Spring of 2003 I received a phone call from Ty Patterson, Vice-President of Student Services at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, MO. In that phone call Ty challenged me that if ConnectEdu was going to be a company focused on improving college access, then it would have to become very focused on supporting community colleges and community college students. Admittedly I was initially surprised … what was he talking about?

Since that phone call I have spent time personally understanding the issues facing community college students in addition to developing a team at ConnectEdu to focus solely on community colleges. Ty Patterson could not have been more right! Just think, each year approximately 6 million students enroll in community colleges with the goal of eventually completing an undergraduate degree. However, each year only about 750K students move from community colleges into four-year institutions to complete an undergraduate degree. And here is some irony for you; the 750K students that do successfully transfer from their CC into a four-year college tend to out-perform (i.e. graduate on time) by comparison to their traditional high school-to-college counterparts.

Until now, transfer students had to work within high school-specific solutions. Transfer advisors had no management tools to benchmark and track their student’s performance. Plus, transfer advisor-to-student ratios makes the high school counselor-to-student ratio look like a piece of cake. On top of that, I am constantly reminded of the communication gap between community colleges and 4-year institutions around degree audits and/ or articulation agreements. Connect! is the only comprehensive college planning solution that has a module dedicated to these specific needs of community college students.

In fact, the most progressive solutions – Connect! notwithstanding - in the marketplace require student’s go to a website, input all of the classes they’ve taken, and wait for a report that indicates which courses will transfer at a limited number of four-year schools. Assuming they’ve keyed their transcript information accurately, it still may be too late if they’ve already completed the wrong courses over the past four or more semesters. Transfer students want to know, before they begin enrolling, which courses will transfer to a variety of four-year institutions; not just the one closest to their community college. Students want to be informed, they want access and they want choice. And Connect! gives them the tools.

Today, ConnectEdu and the Council of North Central Two-Year Colleges have partnered to provide community college students, transfer advisors, transfer admission officers and receiving institution registrars with a comprehensive solution to this very important and comprehensive problem. The goal of the CDU/ CNCTYC partnership is to leverage the model that ConnectEdu has deployed in partnership with the high schools, community colleges and colleges in Missouri. The CDU / CNCTYC will expand the Connect! community college network across 19 states. We hope this will be the start of a national movement to meet the needs of community college students!

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