Academic journal article Community College Review

Creating and Sustaining Community College-University Transfer Partnerships

Academic journal article Community College Review

Creating and Sustaining Community College-University Transfer Partnerships

Article excerpt

This qualitative study of a community college-university partnership employs network embeddedness theory to examine the processes involved in creating and sustaining partnerships to enhance transfer and baccalaureate attainment. In particular, this article describes the challenges inherent in partnership management and governance, the importance of involving faculty in transfer-partnership programs and activities, and the utility of community college-university transfer partnerships in the future. Findings have clear implications for research and practice.

Keywords: transfer; partnership; community college; university: faculty involvement


Ever since community colleges emerged in the early 20th century, they have been alternately lauded as "democracy's colleges" (Mahoney, 1997) for their role in providing access to higher education for previously underserved groups and lambasted for accentuating rather than reducing "prevailing patterns of social and class inequity" (Karabel, 1986, p. 18) in part because only about one fourth of their students transfer to a university (Center for the Study of Community Colleges, 2001). This tension is also evident on community college campuses, where many faculty and administrators both believe that their institution supports transfer and agree that more can and should be done to assist students in meeting their transfer goals (Cohen, 1996).

Whether one faults the 2-year college for "cooling out" their students' educational aspirations (Clark, 1960) or defends the institutions by pointing out the myriad challenges inherent in educating an incredibly diverse and frequently underprepared student body, most agree that low transfer rates are a problem, both for community colleges, which may not be effectively supporting the goals and aspirations of their students, and for 4-year universities, which may not be successfully enrolling representative numbers of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and traditionally underrepresented races and ethnicities. Yet neither institution may be able to solve the problem on its own. Because of budget restrictions and increased pressure to demonstrate learning outcomes on community college campuses (Serban & Friedlander, 2004), few institutions have the personnel or the resources necessary to focus on enhancing and supporting transfer. Similarly, state policy makers and university leaders may hesitate to allocate resources toward outreach initiatives when there is not enough money to fund all programs and activities on their own campuses (Hebel, 2004). Therefore, community colleges and universities must work together to create and sustain effective transfer practices and to legitimize the community college as a viable and important path to the baccalaureate.

Unfortunately, although transfer partnerships that consist of more than simple articulation agreements between 2- and 4-year colleges are increasingly common throughout the United States, they have received scant attention in the scholarly literature since the late 1980s and early 1990s (e.g., Donovan, Shaier-Peleg, & Forer, 1987; Eaton, 1992; Wechsler, 1989). Even fewer articles have examined these partnerships through a conceptual lens that helps to identify the factors that may be barriers or aids to achieving partnership goals. In sum, we have little understanding of the processes by which community college-university transfer partnerships can be created and sustained. The purpose of this study is to draw on the experiences and knowledge of faculty and administrators involved in the development and ongoing operation of one community college-university transfer partnership to gain an understanding of these processes and of the utility of transfer partnerships in the future.

Literature on Community College--University Transfer Partnerships

Throughout the past 20 years, there has been an "explosion in alliances" in America (Dyer & Singh, 1998, p. …

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