Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Exploring Student and Advisor Experiences in a College-University Pathway Program: A Study of the Bachelor of Commerce Pathway

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Exploring Student and Advisor Experiences in a College-University Pathway Program: A Study of the Bachelor of Commerce Pathway

Article excerpt

Introduction

In summer 2005, Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) initiated multiple pathway programs to help college students complete university degrees and university students complete college diplomas and certificates. The majority of these programs have been designed to support students who have completed a two-year college diploma to transition into a four-year university honours degree. Some of these pathway programs include "bridge courses" that college students must complete to qualify for admission to certain university degree programs. Students must complete these bridge courses after having completed a two-year college diploma or three-year advanced college diploma program. Other pathway programs do not include bridge courses, meaning that qualified college students (i.e., those who have completed an appropriate three-year advanced diploma) may enrol in university courses directly (direct entry).

To date, there has not been a review of the pathway programs at these institutions in terms of successes and challenges experienced by their students. There is also very little program-level evidence of the benefits and challenges experienced by students enrolled in these programs. Consequently, this study explored some of the successes and challenges experienced by participants of these programs to inform future development of pathway program policy and practice.

As a mixed-methods study, this research project involved the collection, analysis, and interpretation of quantitative and qualitative data, with a focus on pathway student grades, and the experiences of pathway students and their academic advisors. This paper presents preliminary findings specific to the Bachelor of Commerce Pathway Program (BCom Pathway), focusing on its strengths and weaknesses, including a comparison of pathway student grade point average (GPA) scores to those of non-pathway four-year university students (traditional students), and factors that facilitate and hinder pathway program enrolment, transition, and completion. Student mobility through the BCom Pathway is particularly important due to the accreditation requirements placed on graduates by professional accreditation bodies such as the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario and the Human Resources Professionals Association. Some recommendations for BCom Pathway improvement and suggestions for further research are provided.

Background

Historically, Ontario college education engaged students in occupation-specific training with little emphasis on preparing students to transfer to university (Skolnik, 1995). However, today's students are more likely to pursue multiple credentials from different institutions (Bayard & Greenlee, 2009). For example, from 2000-2001 to 2006-2007, the number of college graduates pursuing degree programs at Ontario universities nearly doubled (Colleges Ontario, 2008).

However, attending both college and university to attain multiple credentials is a relatively recent phenomenon in Canada. To date, only British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec have fully articulated transfer systems between colleges and universities. Consequently, relatively little research has been conducted on college-university transitions in Canada (Andres, 2001; Stewart & Martinello, 2012), and much of the existing research explores the experiences of transfer students in the United States. Moreover, many of these studies focus exclusively on quantitative data such as transfer rates, GPA patterns, and withdrawal rates, without examining students' experiences in these programs (Gawley & McGowan, 2006; Laanan, 2001). These quantitative studies generally involve students who have transferred to a university degree program before completing a college diploma program.

There has also been considerable research into the concept of "transfer shock" (Hill 1965, cited in Stewart & Martinello 2012), a phenomenon where the GPAs of college-touniversity transfer students' overall performance, as measured by GPA, declines early in their university programs and then rebounds by graduation (Diaz 1992; Rhine, Milligan & Nelson 2000, D'Amico, Dika, Elling, Alfozzine, & Ginn, 2014). …

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