Freshening Up Transfer Programs: Amended Policies, Marketing Campaign Swell Student Participation in a Community College-University Joint Admissions Program

Article excerpt

It is clear that President Barack Obama's goal for the nation to have the world's largest share of college-educated adults by 2020 cannot be accomplished without community colleges. Nationally, nearly 50 percent of all those pursuing higher education enroll in two-year colleges, many for the convenience and cost-effectiveness. Despite these large numbers, less than 25 percent of community college students in Texas who aspire to a bachelor's degree ever transfer to a four-year institution. To improve this transfer rate, Houston Community College (HCC) and the University of Houston (UH) joined forces to ensure associate degree graduates experience a seamless transition into a baccalaureate program with the aid of joint admissions.

While the joint admissions agreement between HCC and UH is not new, it was necessary to revise the program and reacquaint students with it. The challenge was not just letting students know the program existed, but getting this information to them via media venues in which they participate. Between 2006 and 2009, only 17 students took advantage of this program. This demonstrated that traditional marketing methods were not working.

HCC and UH renewed the idea of intereducational partnerships. HCC, with more than 70,000 students, and UH, with nearly 37,000, are among the largest and most diverse institutions in Texas. It is no coincidence that this partnership has been strengthened and renewed by Dr. Mary S. Spangler, HCC chancellor, and Dr. Renu Khator, UH system chancellor. They have both encouraged and challenged their administrators to improve each institution's graduation rates by consolidating resources and expanding partnerships.

After revising the plan over the summer and early fall, these institutions launched the revamped HCC/UH Joint Admissions (JA) Program in November 2009 as a mechanism to offer students an easier transition from associate to bachelor's degree. The redesigned program garnered buy-in from all levels. Each chancellor understands her success is somewhat interdependent upon the other's. Khator, in her quest to move UH to Tier One status, understands the strategic importance that the "transfer student" will play in this endeavor. Conversely, in line with HCC's institutional mission, Spangler and her six college presidents are committed to expanding educational opportunities for their students. These administrators are keenly aware of the many social and economic benefits that come with the attainment of a bachelor's degree. These factors created an environment for bilateral support for the JA Program, particularly at the administrative level.

However, in the beginning of the new JA Program, this was not so much the case among some community college instructional and student services personnel. …