This week’s reflective journal focuses on engagement of community college transfer students. This is an intriguing constituency, as they can encompass a number of the other constituencies that are being learned in this course, such as commuter/part-time students, students of color, low-income students, and first-generation students. For this reason, it makes working with these students a unique challenge, one, from my experience, higher education continues to struggle with. Transfer students provide institutions an opportunity to “backfill” student attrition, so they create a huge revenue opportunity.
In looking at a student’s experience at a community college, Nora and Rendon (1990) noted through their research that students with greater levels of integration at the community college level are more likely to transfer. If we think about this through the lens of Astin’s (1984) Student Involvement Theory, students who are more involved are more likely to persist through their education. Community college students are no different, but it also depends partly on their intended pathways attending a community college. A transfer student’s experience is a key learning point in this week’s course materials. “Transfer shock” is an interesting concept, especially in the first semester where stress is higher. Rhine et al. note that given the differences between community colleges and universities/four-year colleges, administrators, faculty, and counsellors at all these institutions need to make appropriate changes to the process to ease the transition. In addition, Glass and Harrington’s (2010) quantitative research does indicate a lower transfer student GPA in their first semester compared to native student’s GPA, which supports the concept of “transfer shock”. In my experience, because transfer students can enroll at different points in the academic year, they are not necessarily participating in an orientation and being provided resources on what support services are available. Because of this, I have found that students are getting “lost” within the system, have minimal to no support network on campus, at least initially, and suffer in silence in many cases. “Transfer shock” can be lessened with the involvement of student services’ practitioners. If accurate enrollment numbers are being collected on incoming transfer students, messaging using technology could be pushed out to this constituency to provide them awareness on the support services that are available to them on campus. Creation of a mandatory orientation can be an effective way of delivering this information as well. From my experiences at my current institution, this has been an issue, as accurate enrollment numbers have not been collected. This messaging can also play a pivotal role in student’s integration into campus social life, which as noted in Quaye and Harper (2015), is challenging for transfer students. Information regarding campus events, student clubs, study spaces, etc. need to be provided to transfer students to make them feel more comfortable in their new campus setting.
The next key learning point is credit acceptance and articulation issues. Although it is mentioned by Donovan, Schaler-Peleg, and Forer (1987), that transferability of credit from community colleges to four-year institutions is a problem, from my experience it goes one step further. We can look at this from the structure and advising resources at the community college, but we need to look at the structure and resources at the receiving institution. As an academic advisor, I have had a number of students come and see me over the years wanting to transfer courses to our institution. In many cases, we do not have the ample information on articulations and transfer agreements to be able to effectively advise this constituency, which has led to both dissatisfaction as well as uncertainty at the time of application. This is mentioned by Hagedorn, Cypers, and Lester (2008), and I strongly believe this to be true.
Transfer receptive culture is a theoretical framework that is a major learning point for me this week. The first element is placing a “high institutional priority” on transfer, which I strongly agree with. In order for the transfer process to be a successful one, it needs to be valued by both the sending and receiving institution. From my experience, this hasn’t happened, as assessing transfer credits has been given to faculty who already have a full work load, and are therefore doing this off the side of their desk. The second element, providing information and resources focused on the specific needs of transfer students is very important, but not done very well. At my institution, we do have an online transfer guide, but there is no one assigned to update this database, which becomes problematic from an advising perspective, as we do not have to provide students with inaccurate information. Third, is offering financial and academic support to transfer students is not only mechanism for supporting students, but if advertised effectively, can be a recruitment tool. To my knowledge, our institution does not offer a financial incentives specifically to transfer students. The fourth element, acknowledging the living experiences that students bring to campus, is an area that our institution has historically been very weak on, but in the last few years, we’ve established relationship with military reservists in both Canada and the United States on accepting their experiences as transfer credit to create the ability to shorten their academic pathways. This has worked extremely well. The fifth element, a reflective and analytical process, is happening within this previously mentioned military arrangement, but not with any other institutions, so we need to improve in this area to be a more effective option for transfer students.
This week's photo is our newest building at our main campus located in Burnaby, BC Canada. This building is referred to as the "gateway" to our institution, and was funding primarily from our provincial government.