Academic journal article Community College Review

Innovative Linkages: Two Urban Community Colleges and an Elite Private Liberal Arts College

Academic journal article Community College Review

Innovative Linkages: Two Urban Community Colleges and an Elite Private Liberal Arts College

Article excerpt

This paper reports on the result of two case studies of innovative transfer agreements between urban community colleges and an elite private women's college. Transfer agreements between Miami-Dade Community College and Smith College as well as Santa Monica College and Smith College are examined to determine the factors that influence their success. The study's findings indicate that the transfer agreements succeed because of the potential for benefits for both campuses; the use of a formal written agreement and the involvement of faculty; and the personal attention paid to transfer students and prospective transfer students at both campuses.

Introduction and Background

In 1997, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported the story of Charlotte Dickerson who had transferred from Miami-Dade Community College (MDCC) to Smith College, an elite women's college in Northampton, Massachusetts (Geraghty, 1997). At the time, Charlotte was one of a handful of Miami-Dade students who had made the transfer to Smith. The success of Dickerson and the other students led Smith and Miami-Dade to formalize a transfer agreement between the two institutions. Later, Santa Monica College (SMC) entered into a similar agreement with Smith. (1) Both transfer agreements allow students the opportunity to transfer from either community college to Smith and receive credit for the courses they have taken, as long as those courses have been designated as appropriate for transfer by the institutions involved.

Although most transfer or articulation agreements involve two public institutions from the same state, these two specific agreements are unique because they involve public community colleges and an elite out-of-state private college. (2) There is no way of knowing how widespread the practice of having articulation agreements across state lines is, especially between public and private colleges, but we can conclude that the vast majority of the research on transfer agreements between community colleges and baccalaureate-granting institutions focuses on relationships between institutions within the same state and, more specifically, on arrangements between public institutions. Cejda's (1999) research on the transfer patterns at a private liberal arts college offers an exception. His research, however, suggests that the concept of transfer can be only loosely applied to the students and college he studied. The students in his research used community colleges more for reverse transfer or as a safety valve to pick up isolated credits than they did as a stepping stone to a baccalaureate education.

The transfer agreements between Smith and Santa Monica and Miami-Dade are of interest because of their potential to provide very bright community colleges students with an opportunity to attend an elite school as well as their potential to add to the richness and diversity of institutions like Smith College. The three institutions involved in this arrangement are somewhat unique. For example, both Miami-Dade and Santa Monica are extraordinarily successful in terms of the numbers of their students that transfer to their respective state systems of higher education and to local private institutions. Santa Monica regularly publicizes the fact that it is the "premier transfer spot" to the University of California and California State University systems. Miami-Dade boasts that one of seven upper division students in the Florida State University System began his or her postsecondary career at Miami-Dade. Smith College is not a typical postsecondary institution either. It is both a women's college and an elite institution with a great degree of selectivity.

Nonetheless, we believe that these institutions and the transfer agreements they have constructed have something important to teach other institutions. In particular, transfer agreements such as these have the potential to create win-win situations for community colleges and private liberal arts colleges. …

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