Partnerships That Promote Success: Lessons and Findings from the Evaluation of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's Community College Transfer Initiative
Partnerships that Promote Success:
Lessons and Findings from the Evaluation of the
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Community College Transfer Initiative
From 2006-2010, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Community College Transfer Initiative (CCTI)
funded eight highly selective colleges and universities to help high-achieving low- to moderate income
community college students to transfer to, and succeed at, their institutions. The initiative
recognized both the influence of attending selective colleges and universities on students’ future
success, particularly for those from lower-income families, and the contributions that the students
could make to the four-year campuses. The long-term goal is to promote sustainable increases in
the number of low- to moderate-income community college students who enroll in and succeed at
the nation’s selective four-year institutions.
The Foundation issued $6.8 million in grants to the institutions to increase the number of high
achieving, low-income community college transfer students at the participating four-year colleges
and universities. The grants would enable the institutions to foster programs, policies, and
partnerships with community colleges to improve student preparation, assistance with admission
and financial aid processes, orientation and “bridge” programs, and post-admission support. The
eight institutions were Amherst College, Bucknell University, Cornell University, Mount Holyoke
College, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of North CarolinaChapel
Hill, and University of Southern California. To evaluate the CCTI, the Foundation selected
the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and
Despite many challenges, all eight campuses improved their ability to recruit qualified students and
support their success. From 2007 through 2010, almost eleven hundred students enrolled in these
eight schools because of the CCTI.1 Many of the CCTI students were nontraditional with respect to
life experience, personal circumstances, and age. The initiative transformed students’ lives and the
students made substantial contributions to the institutions where they matriculated. At the end of
the initiative, six out of eight campuses were on track to continue their efforts.
This is the executive summary of the final evaluation report, which outlines implementation
challenges, poses solutions, and describes results.
Rationale for the Initiative
The college enrollment gap for underrepresented students in higher education has been a national
concern in the United States for decades. In recent years, high-profile national initiatives have
focused new attention and resources on the need to expand the college access goal to include
college success and increasingly recognized the role of community colleges in preparing students
for transfer to and success at four-year institutions. Yet, although many community college students from low- to moderate-income backgrounds are prepared to excel at highly selective four-year
institutions, considerable barriers limit their opportunities to do so. This matters because
lower-income students who attend highly selective institutions are more likely to complete their
four-year degree and enroll in graduate school. Supporting the transfer of community college
students to top four-year institutions helps to maximize individual accomplishment – which
increases our national vitality.
Since 2001, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has supported the educational success of high-achieving,
low-income community college students by awarding the most generous private
scholarships in the nation to students transferring from two-year to four-year institutions. Prior to
awarding the CCTI grants, the Foundation, in collaboration with the Lumina Foundation and the
Nellie Mae Education Foundation, commissioned research2 to examine opportunities for and
barriers to transfer to highly selective academic settings for low-income community college
students. Among other themes, the research identified the importance of: (1) institutional
readiness to support community college transfer students at the four-year institution, (2)
partnerships between four-year and two-year campuses in facilitating successful transfer, and (3)
pre- and post-admission academic, social, and personal support. These three themes are reflected
in the CCTI evaluation findings and addressed in detail in the full report.
The two broad areas of findings from the CCTI evaluation concern the initiative’s benefits to
students and campuses and the lessons learned for other institutions that are interested in
implementing similar programs.
CCTI Benefits Increasing access for low-income, community college transfer students benefits not only the students who transfer, but also both the two- and four-year institutions.
Benefits to students:
- The CCTI expanded students’ educational opportunities and enabled them, perhaps for the first time, to take part in what one called “intellectual feasting.”
- The programs broadened aspirations and transformed lives. Most CCTI students faced barriers to simply completing a bachelor’s degree (indeed, many had planned to stop at an associate’s degree), but 79% planned to attend graduate or professional school.
- Illustrative student comments:
“I had never dared dream this big.”
“This program saved me.”
“I thought the letter I got inviting me to a meeting about transferring was a scam. I couldn’t believe that a selective university would invite community college students like me to apply.”
“It has expanded the things I thought I could do. I see that doors are not locked.”
Benefits to community colleges:
- The CCTI helped community college partners enrich their institutional transfer culture, made more information available for students interested in transferring to a four-year institution, and reached out to students who were not necessarily seeking to transfer.
- The program enhanced the community colleges’ efforts to develop more rigorous curricula, honors programs, and higher-quality advising systems.
Benefits to four-year institutions:
- The CCTI contributed to cross-campus collaboration and communication
- The programs increased the diversity of the student body in terms of demographics, life experiences, and income.
- Focused and typically more mature, the CCTI students contributed to the intellectual life on the campuses – often transforming classroom discussions with stimulating questions and impressive preparation.
- CCTI students contributed to campus life by becoming deeply engaged. They formed transfer student organizations, provided significant feedback to improve communications with and services for transfer students, assumed campus leadership roles, won awards, honors, and competitive scholarships, and conducted research with faculty. Many became peer mentors and ambassadors to potential applicants at community college as well as to recently enrolled CCTI students.
- The CCTI did not detract from the institutions’ overall academic performance. CCTI students performed academically on par with native students.3
Faculty and administrators described them as disciplined and highly motivated. Most CCTI students said they felt academically prepared for the rigorous curriculum at the four-year campuses.
- Faculty support towards transfer policies and the presence of community college transfer students on their campuses increased.
In addition, the promising practices that emerged during the initiative add to the known repertoire of practices that promote success for nontraditional, low-income, and/or first generation students and show how to open up more avenues to highly selective four-year institutions for low-income students. Moreover, the increased diversity of the pool of potential public and private sector leaders benefits society.
The chart below summarizes these promising practices by CCTI institution.
The lessons learned from the CCTI can increase a four-year institution’s odds of developing
effective transfer programs by addressing challenges that stand in the way of successful transfers,
such as the following:
- Students tend to lack the information and experiences that equip their middle-class
counterparts to navigate a college setting with relative ease.
- Virtually all students have financial challenges (although more CCTI students anticipated
financial troubles than actually reported them at the end of their first or second years at the
- Many students lack belief in their potential as “bachelor’s degree material.”
- Many students have family obligations.
- Transfer policies are not always clear and may be aimed at students transferring from other
four-year institutions rather than community colleges.
- A lack of advising support at both the two- and four-year institutions sometimes keeps
students from applying for transfer, especially to elite institutions.
- CCTI students reported time management and keeping up with reading, papers, and exams as
their biggest challenges.
- Negative faculty preconceptions about transfer students, especially those from community
colleges, can hinder efforts to promote more transfers from community colleges. These
preconceptions often arise from lack of faculty engagement and experience with community
- Organizational silos and lack of communication among faculty, administration, staff, and
students can hinder an institution’s efforts to implement a transfer program.
Though the individual CCTI programs were tailored to each institution’s needs and experiences, the
lessons learned were applicable to all grantees. Following are key lessons the CCTI institutions
learned as they addressed these challenges.
High levels of institutional readiness and buy‐in are associated with more
effective and sustainable programs. “Paving the way” may be as important as
- Institutions whose mission and/or strategic plan aligned with recruiting transfer
students and helping them to succeed were better positioned for this effort.
- Learner‐centered campuses moved more quickly into successful partnerships
with community colleges and a successful transfer program.
- Institutional buy‐in is needed for smooth implementation. A critical mass of
supporters can be formed by making a plan collaboratively, having transparent
communications, and having point people from among faculty and key
administrative units. Both senior‐level and broad‐based commitment support
For maximum success, institutions must find and prepare the right students and
support them through and after transfer.
- Campuses recruited students through community college honors programs,
classes, and the honors society (Phi Theta Kappa), as well as lists of students with
high GPAs. Some talked with community college faculty and staff to find other
students with potential who might not be discovered through these channels and
who were not thinking about transferring to a four‐year institution (one
institution called such students “diamonds in the rough”). Most made every
effort to identify prospective students early, to leave more time for campus visits,
program engagement, and better academic preparation.
- Campuses enhanced community college student readiness for success at the four‐
year campus in several ways: appointing a campus point person for community
college transfer students (and often point people in admissions and financial aid);
organizing peer and staff mentoring; providing joint classes and summer
academic programs; working with community college faculty to align curricula;
providing workshops and other opportunities for students to learn about the
four‐year campus and about “college survival skills,” such as time management.
- The campuses supported students during and after transfer in many ways:
- All developed or enhanced reasonable credit transfer policies and worked to
make them as clear, transparent, and individualized as possible.
- All developed social integration strategies such as cohort activities and peer
mentoring to help CCTI students feel like they belonged.
- Many actively promoted faculty, staff, and peer mentoring for CCTI students;
according to student surveys, CCTI students who were mentored were nearly
5.5 times more likely to feel like they fit in than those who were not.
- All designated one or more “trusted agents” to help students navigate, answer
questions about everything from parking to advising, and trouble shoot.
- All supported CCTI students academically, through promoting tutoring and
other services as a smart choice (one advisor said, “We want them to see the
writing center as the place successful students go”). Many gave CCTI students
priority access to such services, offered extended faculty office hours, and
developed tracking systems to identify students who may be struggling
The most effective and sustainable programs had the most robust partnerships
between community colleges and four‐year institutions. These partnerships
identified key individuals (on both campuses) focused on facilitating student transfer
(some also developed program advisory committees involving faculty, administration,
staff, and students); established structures to facilitate frequent communication; and
were mutually respectful, stressing the importance of learning from each other.
Involving students in the partnership is advantageous – they can help with
outreach, support other students after transferring, increase the program’s
visibility, and provide important feedback and recommendations.
The most successful programs continually assessed how things were working
and used data to improve the programs and sustain success.
There is no one‐size‐fits‐all program. Each of the eight CCTI campuses ended up
with a somewhat different mix of practices that fit within their culture and
Evaluation Activities and Strategies
The CCTI evaluation sought answers to the following questions about the Foundation‐
1. How does the transfer program affect the community college transfer students’
enrollment, retention, and graduation?
2. How does the institutional context and type of institution affect the success of the
3. How do community college transfer students perform compared with students who
begin their undergraduate education at the institution?
4. What are the experiences of the community college transfer students, faculty, and
staff affected by the Foundation‐funded transfer programs at each grantee
institution? What are the attitudes of faculty and administrators at both the two‐
year and four‐year institutions toward transfers?
5. To what extent will these programs continue after the funding period?
The design included multiple types of data and sources. Interviews with students, faculty,
and staff during annual site visits yielded qualitative data about the initiative’s impact on
the campuses, the extent to which the initiative was being institutionalized, and campus‐
specific practices. The evaluation used several sources of quantitative data to answer
questions about CCTI student performance, academic success, social integration, and
financial aid compared to their non‐CCTI peers; and, at two of the three smaller
institutions, faculty attitudes.
- Interviews with students, faculty, and staff during annual site visits to the eight CCTI
institutions and more than 25 community college partners yielded qualitative data
about the initiative’s impact, the extent to which it was being institutionalized, and
campus‐specific practices. The researchers interviewed more than 600 students who
had transferred from community colleges to the CCTI campuses; 300 community
college students who were considering transfer; 300 faculty, staff, and administrators at
the four‐year institutions; and 150 community college faculty, staff, and administrators.
- Several sources of quantitative data shed light on CCTI student demographics, academic
success, social integration, and financial aid compared to their non‐CCTI peers.
Researchers conducted baseline and annual end‐of‐year surveys with students who had
transferred and collected annual student data (for CCTI students and two comparison
groups – other transfer students and native students) on academic performance,
financial aid, and demographics. To explore the nature of and changes, if any, in faculty
attitudes toward and experience with community college transfer students, researchers
conducted faculty surveys (a 2007 baseline and 2010 follow‐up) at two of the smaller
- To assess the effectiveness of the CCTI programs at the four‐year campuses, the analysis
compared characteristics and outcomes for CCTI students, non‐CCTI transfer students,
and students who enrolled in the four‐year institution as freshmen.
- Using mixed methods and multiple sources of data enabled the researchers to look for
patterns across sources and enhance the credibility and richness of the findings. Rather
than depend only on a survey or a series of observations or interviews, we can compare
and contrast findings from different sources. This strategy, also known as
“triangulation,” strengthens our confidence in the findings.3
- Variation among the sites increases confidence in the applicability of the findings for a
range of other institutions. The CCTI sites include large, small, public, and private
institutions, with different campus cultures, in different geographical locations, and
with different political, economic, and social contexts. Community college partners also
varied greatly in size and type.
- An emphasis on promising practices and lessons learned enabled the evaluation team to
collect a great deal of useful data and encouraged the campuses to be candid in their
assessments of program effectiveness.
The brief summation of the lessons learned from the CCTI for institutions seeking to
develop and improve transfer pathways is this:
- Be ready: prepare the way for introducing a transfer initiative.
- Develop both broad and high‐level buy‐in.
- Develop strong partnerships with community colleges.
- Look for the “right” students, take steps to help them prepare for transfer, help them
through the process, and support them during and after the transition.
The benefits of a transfer initiative like the CCTI are many, and the time is right to engage in
such initiatives. Senior administrators from the eight institutions uniformly said that the
effort, while considerable, is eminently doable and is simply the right thing to do. They
hoped that the lessons from their experience would encourage other institutions to engage
in similar ventures.
From 2006‐2010, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Community College Transfer Initiative (CCTI)
provided support to eight selective colleges and universities to increase their enrollment of high‐
achieving, low‐ to moderate‐income community college transfer students, many of whom were
nontraditional with respect to age, life experience, and personal circumstances.
Community colleges are a pathway to a bachelor’s degree for millions of students. Many of them
from low‐ to moderate‐income backgrounds are prepared to excel at highly selective four‐year
institutions, yet considerable barriers limit their opportunities for transfer to such institutions –
even though lower‐income students who attend highly selective institutions are more likely to
complete their four‐year degree and enroll in graduate school. The CCTI was designed to help high‐
achieving low‐ to moderate‐income community college students to transfer to and succeed at
highly selective colleges and universities.
The initiative began with a study (Dowd et al., 2006) and national forum that informed the
Foundation and the public about the barriers these students face in transferring to selective four‐
year institutions. The Foundation then issued $6.8 million in grants to eight highly selective
institutions to foster programs, policies, and partnerships with community colleges that support
the transfer of such students, including preparation, assistance with admission and financial aid
processes, orientation and “bridge” programs, and post‐admission support. The long‐term goal is
to promote sustainable increases in the number of low‐ to moderate‐income community college
students who have access to the nation’s selective four‐year institutions. Despite many challenges,
all eight campuses improved their ability to systematically recruit qualified CCTI students and
support their success. At the end of the initiative, six out of eight campuses were on track to
continue their efforts.
The eight institutions were Amherst College, Bucknell University, Cornell University, Mount
Holyoke College, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), University of Michigan (U‐M),
University of North Carolina‐Chapel Hill (UNC‐CH), and University of Southern California (USC).
Table 1.1 shows the location, type, and size of these varied institutions as well as the name they
gave to their campus CCTI program. (The institutional abbreviations and program names will be
used throughout the report.) Appendix A features brief profiles of the campus CCTI programs.
To evaluate the CCTI, the Foundation selected the Center for Youth and Communities (CYC) at
Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. This is the evaluation report.
The initiative recognized both the influence of attending selective colleges and universities on
students’ future success, particularly for those from lower income families, and the contributions
that the students could make to the four‐year campuses. And, in fact, the CCTI has transformed
students’ lives and the students have made substantial contributions to the institutions where they
matriculated. From 2007 (when the first “official” CCTI students enrolled) through 2010, almost
eleven hundred students enrolled in these eight schools because of the CCTI (see Table 1.2).6
The rest of the Introduction highlights the benefits of the CCTI, as reported in surveys and
interviews; describes the evaluation design; outlines the rest of the report; and briefly sets this
report in a broader context.
Benefits to CCTI Campuses
Most administrators and faculty who were interviewed for the evaluation cited CCTI benefits for
both campuses and students. Following are some of the benefits reported:
- CCTI students increased campus diversity in ways that freshman admissions often don’t.
- The CCTI improved collaboration and communication between campus units.
- Focused and mature, the CCTI students made intellectual contributions to the four‐year
campuses and often transformed classroom discussions.
- Faculty on several campuses said that many CCTI students did supplemental
reading and even asked for extra reading. They offered insights and “edgy”
questions that enrich class discussions.
- Some faculty members who were not the most supportive at the beginning of the
program later asked, “Can we get more CCTI students?”
- The CCTI students inspired administrators, faculty, and other students through their
“appreciation for resources that other students might take for granted,” as one
- Some schools and departments that had originally said they would not accept CCTI
students were doing so at the end of the grant.
- CCTI students contributed to campus life by becoming deeply engaged on campus.
- CCTI students formed transfer student organizations at three campuses, improving
life for all transfer students by raising awareness of, and helping to address, transfer
- On all campuses, the CCTI students provided significant constructive feedback to
improve campus communications with and services for transfer students.
- Many CCTI students have won awards and honors, assumed campus leadership
roles, won competitive scholarships that were open to all students, and conducted
research with faculty. One taught a summer course that had previously only been
taught by faculty; another was awarded a prestigious fellowship shortly after
transferring; another was elected student body president; and another helped to
create a transfer honors program.
- Many CCTI students became formal or informal peer mentors and ambassadors to
potential applicants who were still at community college as well as to more recent
CCTI students. They took on these roles because they wanted to “give back” and to
offer the kind of information that professional staff can’t necessarily provide.
Benefits to CCTI Students
The researchers heard about and observed the CCTI’s positive effects on CCTI students on all eight
campuses. They talked with students who had known about what one student called “intellectual
feasting” but never thought it was for them. CCTI students included previously incarcerated
students who had rediscovered themselves and their talents at community college and were now
on a path toward graduate school; students whose families actively opposed their attendance at
community college, let alone at a four‐year institution; single mothers or fathers who wanted to
provide a better life and a role model for their children and who in some cases would be graduating
college as their children were graduating high school; students who had thought they might stop at
an associate’s degree but were planning for graduate school; high school dropouts who started “just
taking a community college course or two,” but found a professor who recognized their potential
and were now doing well at an elite four‐year institution; and students who had never before
traveled outside of their state but were now studying abroad. Following are illustrative student
- “I had never dared dream this big.”
- “I didn’t expect to succeed at community college, let alone at a university.”
- “I wasn’t even sure I’d go to community college – now I’m doing well at a selective school
and seeing a very different future than I’d imagined.”
- “This program saved me.”
- “It’s about more than getting a good grade – it’s about thinking bigger.”
- “My community college advisors recommended against applying to schools like this. They
thought I was shooting too high.”
- “I thought the letter I got inviting me to a meeting about transferring was a scam. I couldn’t believe that a selective university would invite community college students like me to apply.”
- “It has expanded the things I thought I could do. I see that doors are not locked.”
As noted, many CCTI students were already giving back, helping other students formally (as peer
mentors or in transfer student organizations) or informally. One student said, “What can we do to
help other community college students? In my opinion, this is the best program in the world.” On
several campuses, the potential for the CCTI to create enthusiastic alumni who will want to give
back financially seemed clear. One senior who had transferred from a community college said, “If I
ever get some money, I’ll definitely donate it to this program.”
In addition to benefiting the four‐year campuses and students, the CCTI benefited partnering
community colleges, the field, and the public realm.
- Community college partners described several benefits to their institutions. Most
mentioned that the CCTI helped them develop and enrich their campus transfer culture,
educating students about a wider range of options than they may have previously considered, and enhancing the community college’s efforts to develop a more rigorous
curriculum, honors programs, and higher‐quality advising systems.
- The promising practices that emerged during the course of the initiative add to the known
repertoire of effective practices that promote success for nontraditional, low‐income,
and/or first generation students and show how to open up more avenues to highly selective
four‐year institutions for low‐income students.
- The increased diversity of the pool of potential public and private sector leaders benefits
These benefits are particularly important as the number of students in the target categories
increases, e.g., with the increase in the number of veterans pursuing education under the GI Bill.
The CCTI evaluation sought answers to the following questions:
- How does the transfer program affect the community college transfer students’ enrollment,
retention, and graduation?
- How does the institutional context and type of institution affect the success of the CCTI?
- How do community college transfer students perform compared with students who begin
their undergraduate education at the institution?
- What are the experiences of the community college transfer students, faculty, and staff
affected by the Foundation‐funded transfer programs at each grantee institution? What are
the attitudes of faculty and administrators at both the two‐year and four‐year institutions
- To what extent will these programs continue after the funding period?
The design included multiple types of data and sources. Interviews with students, faculty, and staff
during annual site visits yielded qualitative data about the initiative’s impact on the campuses, the
extent to which the initiative was being institutionalized, and campus‐specific practices. The
evaluation used several sources of quantitative data to answer questions about CCTI student
performance, academic success, social integration, and financial aid compared to their non‐CCTI
peers; and, at two of the three smaller institutions, faculty attitudes. With considerable assistance
from the eight campuses, the CYC team collected the following types of quantitative data:
Students (CCTI students, other transfer students, “native students”7)
1. Baseline survey upon matriculation, followed by annual end‐of‐year survey
2. Student academic transcript/record data (annual)
3. Student financial aid data (annual)
Faculty (Amherst, Bucknell8)
1. Baseline survey Fall 2007
2. Follow‐up survey Spring 2010
Data collection followed the CCTI cohorts over time, to evaluate their experiences at the four‐year
institution and to report on retention and graduation rates as well as time to degree.
In addition to seeking answers to the questions listed above, the evaluation also explored promising
practices and lessons learned in order to provide useful program information to other institutions
interested in similar efforts.
Site visits: interviews
Over the five‐year period, the Brandeis evaluation team visited each of the eight CCTI sites and one
or more community college partners annually (the team visited some community colleges once,
others more often, to explore unique program aspects as well as changes over time). Researchers
interviewed more than 600 students who had transferred from community colleges to the CCTI
campuses as well as about 150 faculty and 150 staff and administrators at the four‐year
institutions. They also interviewed about 300 community college students who were considering
transfer and 150 faculty, staff, and administrators at more than 25 community colleges. Evaluation
team members also observed and were able to ask questions at several meetings that brought
together faculty, administrators, staff, and/or students from multiple community colleges. The
following summarizes the interview protocol topics.
- All students were asked about their educational background, academic and career
interests, reasons for going to college, history of interest in attending a four‐year
institution, the effectiveness of transfer/transition preparation and support, transfer
process experiences, reflections, and suggestions for improvement
- Community college students considering transfer were also asked about their transfer
plans and challenges they were facing
- Students who had transferred from community colleges were also asked about:
o How they decided to apply for transfer
o Transfer/transition challenges they had experienced and the nature and availability
of support from their community college and the four‐year institution
o Advice for other community college students interested in transfer
Four‐year and community college faculty, staff, and administrators were asked about:
- Their background, including affiliation with and interest in the CCTI program
- Nature and effectiveness of strategies encouraging and supporting transfer/transition
- Characteristics and experiences of students who have successfully transferred
- Communication about the initiative at each campus and between the community college
and the four‐year institution
- Campus attitudes regarding community college transfer students
- The partnership between the community college and the four‐year institution
- Sustainability of the CCTI, including the extent to which it has been institutionalized and
the challenges to its continuing beyond the grant period
Four‐year faculty, staff, and administrators were also asked about:
- How transfer students compared to other students at the four‐year
- How (if at all) CCTI students are distinguished from others
- How CCTI student experience compared to expectations
- How the institution tracks CCTI students’ progress
- How the CCTI students are doing both academically and socially
CCTI students were asked to complete a baseline survey upon matriculation at the four‐year, as
well as an annual end‐of‐year survey. The baseline survey focused on the following:
- Reasons for community college enrollment and the extent to which the student felt
prepared for community college
- Nature, sources, and effectiveness of transfer‐related information, guidance, and activities
- Financial aid history and status
- Work history and status
- Reasons for applying to the four‐year institution
- Sense of preparation for college life (academic and social/personal)
- Academic and career goals
- Anticipated challenges
- Demographics, family information, educational history
The end‐of‐year survey focused on the following:
- Extent to which the student felt prepared for four‐year college life (academic and
- What would have helped the student feel better prepared
- Extent to which the student feels that s/he fits in
- Personal, resource, academic, and social challenges
- The people who helped the student meet these challenges
- Extent to which services and co‐curricular activities helped the student stay in college
- Financial aid history and status; expected loan amounts; adequacy of prior information
about financial aid; challenges
- Work history and status
- Family support obligations
- Academic and career goals
- Demographics, family information, educational history
Faculty at the two of the three smaller CCTI institutions (Amherst and Bucknell) were surveyed
early in and near the end of the initiative to explore the nature of and changes, if any, in faculty
attitudes toward and experience with community college transfer students. The assumption was
that CCTI impacts on faculty attitudes would be more detectable at the smaller schools where faculty were apt to know students’ backgrounds and thus be able to identify the community college
transfer students. The faculty survey addressed the following:
- Experience with and relationship to community colleges and community college faculty
- Attitudes towards and expectations of undergraduates and transfer students generally, and
community college transfer students specifically, at the institution
- Attitudes toward student preparation generally and community college transfer student
- Attitudes toward the academic, social, and co‐curricular support needed by students
- View of institutional mission
- Sense of attitudes, expectations, and views held by others on campus in these areas
Student record data
The eight CCTI institutions submitted annual data on academic performance, financial aid, and
demographics for three groups of students: CCTI students, other transfer students, and native
students. The goals were to assess whether the target group of CCTI students, defined by the Jack
Kent Cooke Foundation as high‐achieving, low‐ to moderate‐income community college transfer
students, was being admitted; determine student demographics (age, gender, and race/ethnicity);
and analyze both how CCTI students performed compared to other transfers and native students
and what level of financial aid was required to support them. Requested student record data9
included the following:
- Semester and cumulative GPA
- Number of credit hours attempted and earned
- Transfer credits accepted
- Enrollment and stop dates
- Financial aid information
- Demographic information
An effective way to assess whether a program made a difference is to compare outcomes for people
who participated in the program to outcomes for similar people who did not participate in the
program. Under the rigorous standards of experimental research design, people are randomly
assigned to be participants or non‐participants and the program or “treatment” is administered
consistently for all participants. If these conditions are met, it is possible to say that the “treatment”
was the only important difference between the two groups, so differences in outcomes are likely
attributable to the treatment.
However, randomized assignment is an extremely difficult standard for “real‐life” programs to
meet. Many social science researchers and program evaluators have argued that experimental
designs outside of a laboratory are problematic for many reasons. In this evaluation, it would have
been difficult, if not impossible, to randomly select a group of community college transfer students
and randomly assign them to different colleges and universities, some with community college
transfer programs and some without. It would also be extremely challenging to assure that the
“treatment” was the same for all community college transfer students even in the institutions that offered services. Further, in real life, participants drop out of studies, even when costly incentives
are in place to retain them. Finally, ethical questions surround random selection – e.g., is it right to
withhold a “treatment” that is expected to be beneficial?
Other strategies can address the challenge of assessing effectiveness and increase the reliability of
the findings. Following are brief descriptions of the strategies used in this evaluation:
- To assess the effectiveness of the CCTI programs at the four‐year campuses, characteristics
and outcomes for CCTI students, non‐CCTI transfer students, and students who enrolled in
the four‐year institution as freshmen were compared.
- Using mixed methods and multiple sources of data enables us to look for patterns across
sources and enhance the credibility and richness of our findings. Rather than depend only
on a survey or a series of observations or interviews, we can compare and contrast findings
from different sources. This strategy, also known as “triangulation,” strengthens our
confidence in the findings.10
- Variation among the sites increases confidence in the applicability of the findings. The eight
CCTI sites include large, small, public, and private colleges and universities. Moreover, since
they are in different geographical locations, their contexts differ. Their community college
partners also varied greatly in size and type. Thus the lessons learned in implementing the
CCTI may be useful for a range of other institutions.
- We did not make adjustments to address selection bias. This was largely due to the fact that
the CCTI students varied as a group, and although they received special services, they
engaged in a competitive process to gain admission to the four year institutions.
- An emphasis on asking about promising practices and lessons learned enabled the
evaluation team to collect a great deal of useful data and encouraged the campuses to be
candid in their own assessments of program effectiveness.
About this Report
This report presents findings from the analysis of the qualitative (site visit/interview) data, the
student record data, and the faculty and student surveys. In addition to examining what happened
in the CCTI, the report conveys information about promising practices and lessons learned that
institutions interested in similar efforts may find useful. The chapters are as follows:
- Paving the way at the four‐year institution: readiness and buy‐in
- Finding and preparing the right students through partnerships with community colleges
- CCTI student characteristics, outcomes, and experiences
- Sustaining the success of community college transfer at the four‐year institutions
Appendices contain campus CCTI program profiles, survey instruments, student and faculty survey
responses, the list of variables, and interview protocols.
Setting the Report in Context
The college enrollment gap for underrepresented students in higher education has been a national
concern in the United States for decades. Educators, policy makers, private foundations, and other
intermediary organizations have repeatedly called for improving college access, especially for first
generation and low‐ to moderate‐income students. In recent years, several high‐profile national
initiatives have focused new attention and resources on the enrollment gap. The focus of these
initiatives has expanded from college access to include college success and the role of community
colleges in preparing students for transfer to four‐year institutions.
Since 2001, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has supported the educational success of high‐
achieving, low‐income community college students by awarding the most generous private
scholarships in the nation to students transferring from two‐year colleges to four‐year institutions
to complete their bachelor’s degrees. Prior to awarding the CCTI grants, the Foundation, in
collaboration with the Lumina Foundation and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, commissioned
research to examine opportunities for and barriers to transfer to highly selective academic settings
for low‐income community college students. Among the key themes identified in the research
(Dowd et al., 2006) are the importance of: (1) institutional readiness to support community college
transfer students at the four‐year institution, (2) partnerships between four‐year and two‐year
campuses in facilitating successful transfer, and (3) pre‐ and post‐admission academic, social, and
personal support. These themes are reflected in the CCTI evaluation findings and supported by
research on college success for underserved community college transfer students.
Paving the Way at the Four-Year Institution: Readiness and Buy-In
Mount Holyoke College administrators and faculty reported a smooth transition to the
CCTI. One administrator said, “It’s so in line with the college mission – it seems so
natural.” A faculty member said, “Mount Holyoke is fortunate that this program aligns
so closely with its mission – it’s really clear why the program is here.”
The CCTI experience suggests that paving the way is as important as program design. How did the
campuses prepare to implement the CCTI, and what can other institutions learn from their
experience? Two areas that emerged as critical for program success were institutional readiness
to undertake the initiative and significant institutional buy‐in and commitment. The CCTI
campuses with the highest levels of institutional readiness and buy‐in were most likely to have both
effective and sustainable programs. These programs are embedded in campus networks and have
developed momentum – administrators, faculty, staff, students, and community college partners
will find it hard to let them go.
The following discussion, based primarily on interviews conducted during site visits, addresses
these two areas. An important aspect of institutional buy‐in and commitment concerns faculty
views and experiences – thus findings from the faculty survey are highlighted at the end of this
Some CCTI sites made relatively rapid progress in recruiting and supporting high achieving, low‐
income community college transfer students, due in part to a high level of institutional readiness.
Although this statement may seem self‐evident, paying explicit attention to readiness before
implementing a transfer program is a critical first step. Four‐year institutions that want to
undertake similar efforts should thus assess their readiness level and take steps toward raising it
before moving forward with the transfer program.
A key element of readiness was alignment of the CCTI with the institutional mission and/or
strategic plan, often accompanied by at least some experience with community college transfer
students. When the CCTI was aligned with an institution’s mission or strategic plan, it was easier to
articulate goals and benchmarks; give faculty, staff, and students a way to understand and discuss
the undertaking; and generate passion. Following are examples of such alignment from the CCTI
- The CCTI fit well with diversity goals in Bucknell’s strategic plan. The campus was also able
to apply lessons from an earlier program to recruit and retain community college transfer
- The quotes above suggest the CCTI’s alignment with Mount Holyoke’s mission.
Mount Holyoke also built on its Frances Perkins program for nontraditional
students (which predated the CCTI) and affiliations with area community colleges.
An administrator said that “the biggest factor [in the CCTI’s success] was the
existing Frances Perkins network and support system.”
- UC Berkeley began the CCTI with the foundation of state policy that facilitated transfer from
community college to the state university system as well as existing access programs on
which the CCTI could build. Senior administrators reported that the program fits “superbly”
within the University of California mission.
- The CCTI reflected U‐M’s mission and history of promoting opportunity and equity.
- At UNC‐CH, the CCTI coincided with a drive to support all transfer students. UNC‐CH
recently created faculty positions that combine teaching and advising responsibilities,
including helping transfer students select courses. The CCTI also aligns with the “Carolina
Covenant,” a program to enroll students who come from families with incomes at or below
200% of the federal poverty guideline.
- The Amherst CCTI is aligned with an institutional effort to enroll more low‐income
students; campus support for the CCTI reflects support for Amherst’s direction toward
becoming “much more representative of the broader spectrum of the population,” as one
administrator put it.
Another key CCTI readiness element was a learner‐centered campus culture. Learner‐centered
campuses can integrate a community college transfer initiative into existing institutional structures
that support student success, enabling the initiative to move forward more rapidly (and
incidentally enhancing prospects for sustainability). Among the elements of a learner‐centered
culture, which focuses on student needs rather than instructor needs (Barr and Tagg, 1995), are:
(1) Leaders who can garner support for campus‐wide initiatives that will promote such a
culture (Harris and Cullen 2008; Kezar et al., 2008).
(2) Structures that support campuses as “learning organizations” (Senge 2006), such as
systematic information exchanges and strategic use of data to promote institutional
learning about student success.
(3) The use of educational practices and structures that foster student success, such as advising
and academic support services that are integrated into the academic culture and not
perceived as remedial.
(4) Cross‐campus commitment to a learner‐centered culture.
These elements were in evidence to some extent on all CCTI campuses at the beginning of the
initiative – in particular, all CCTI campuses had strong support from senior administrators and
other campus leaders. They were further developed throughout the CCTI, as campuses strove to
improve their ability to support student success. For example:
- Existing strong interdepartmental partnerships at UNC‐CH facilitated communication,
information exchange, and institutional learning. The broad coalition of affiliates grew to
include admissions, advising, student affairs, the career center, financial aid, the peer
mentoring program, and key faculty in the C‐STEP student majors.
- Academic support services at Amherst, which had been housed in student affairs, now
report to the Dean of Faculty. Services are advertised as being appropriate for students
with strong academic skills, such as those writing honors theses or who have fellowships.
- Interviewees said that Mount Holyoke’s campus culture enhanced CCTI success: one
faculty member called Mount Holyoke “a welcoming community that values
diversity.” An administrator said, “The faculty are tremendous student advocates.”
A student described the college’s message as “What can we do to help you succeed?”
instead of what she had heard at other selective colleges: “You’re good, but we
expect you to prove it.”
Challenge: Amherst lacked an infrastructure for community college transfer because of its limited
history with transfer students in general and with community college transfer students in particular.
Strategy: Amherst experimented with several programmatic approaches in the context of a faculty‐
dominated institutional culture. Strategies involved linking CCTI efforts to programs supporting the
institutional diversity initiative, e.g., ongoing workshops for faculty on innovative pedagogies that foster
engagement among low‐income students; a series of faculty lunches focusing on community college
transfer students; and hiring a program coordinator—a recent Amherst graduate from a low‐income
background who worked closely with CCTI students to revise programming to meet students’ needs.
Institutional buy‐in was another critical element in the CCTI’s success (and likely in its
sustainability). CCTI leaders or “champions” on the eight campuses used various strategies to
obtain institutional buy‐in for the CCTI. They generally agreed that the key is a critical mass of
support and commitment, both high‐level and broad‐based – ideally including representation
from all of the following:
- Senior administrators (preferably with meaningful involvement by the president and/or
- Representatives of all major administrative offices (admissions, financial aid, student
affairs, academic affairs, development, enrollment management)
While CCTI leaders thought that many different strategies could be effective (one said, “The best
strategy is whatever works on your campus”), common strategies to promote institutional buy‐in
on the eight campuses included the following:
- Making a plan for buy‐in, including a communication plan.
- Ensuring transparency about the initiative in communications across campus, with the
community colleges, and with students.
- Assigning one senior‐level, hands‐on point person for overall project coordination.
- Ensuring that each relevant administrative office (e.g., admissions, financial aid, student
services, and career services) has a point person.
- Disseminating positive profiles of prospective CCTI students across campus and providing
information to counter negative stereotypes about community colleges. Some faculty and
staff did not know that community colleges often have honors programs and Phi Theta
Kappa (the community college student honor society) chapters. A few even wrongly
believed that community colleges are exclusively technical schools.
- Using an inclusive, empowering leadership style (one administrator called it a “facilitative”
style) that encourages meaningful roles for a wide range of people.
- Recruiting those on campus who have community college connections (e.g., former
community college students or faculty) to be part of the initiative.
Examples of useful strategies in the area of institutional buy‐in included the following:
- Most campuses formed university‐wide committees early in the CCTI. Those at Bucknell,
UNC‐CH, and U‐M were especially strong and included a broad range of senior
administrators and school/department representatives. Mount Holyoke involved senior
administration and faculty “allies” who already supported the Frances Perkins program.
- U‐M’s initiative operated out of the Provost’s office, which lent credibility and heft.
- UC Berkeley’s Center for Educational Partnerships (CEP), which houses the CCTI program,
is under the leadership of the Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion, a location that
recognizes and supports CCTI goals, links the CCTI to related campus initiatives, and
provides high‐level institutional authority and direction.
- Amherst held annual Teaching and Advising luncheons during the initiative to familiarize
faculty with the issues that community college transfer students face. Often CCTI students
spoke at these luncheons.
- As the CCTI progressed, most campuses expanded buy‐in by creating opportunities for CCTI
students to speak about their experiences to groups such as trustees or faculty and
disseminating data about student performance.
Faculty Buy‐In: Highlights from the Faculty Survey Findings
The faculty survey explored changes in faculty attitudes about and experience with community
college transfer students. On small campuses, faculty – who wield considerable power in
institutional decision making – play a central role with respect to institutional buy‐in. The level of
faculty commitment can spell the difference between success and failure for a campus change
initiative. In addition, the physical size of the campus and the student/faculty ratio facilitate
relatively more opportunities for faculty to get to know students and influence their academic
experience than may be possible on larger campuses. Thus, how faculty at small colleges perceive
the ability of community college transfer students to meet the expectations of college‐level work at
an elite institution is a window into the campus culture, and changes in those perceptions may be
an indicator of the CCTI’s impact.
All full‐time Amherst and Bucknell faculty were invited to complete an anonymous survey in Fall 2008
(the “pre‐ survey”) regarding their attitudes towards transfer policies on their campuses and their
experiences with community college transfer students. They were invited to complete a second
anonymous survey in Spring 2010 (the “post survey”) to determine the extent to which their transfer‐
related experiences and attitudes changed.
The overall survey response rate was approximately 35%.11 The analyses aggregated totals for
each year since surveys were anonymous and thus could not be matched to show individual
changes pre‐ to post.12 Although generally encouraging, because of the moderate response rate and
the inability to match pre‐ and post‐surveys, these results are more provisional than definitive.
Overall, the results show a positive trend in faculty attitudes toward transfer policies and to the
presence of community college transfer students on their campuses. They also show positive
associations between more supportive attitudes toward community college transfer and increased
familiarity with the CCTI, with CCTI students, and with community college faculty.
Appendix D summarizes findings from four areas: (1) faculty experience with community college
transfer students, (2) faculty support for campus transfer policies and programs, (3) faculty views on
the institution’s ability to support students’ academic, social, and personal needs, and (4) faculty views
on the relationship between community college student preparation and faculty workload and institution resources. After presenting highlights of that summary, this section focuses on the
relationship between faculty familiarity with the campus CCTI and CCTI students and support for
Selected Highlights of Faculty Survey Findings
- The vast majority of faculty respondents reported having “minimal to no involvement” with
committees that might increase their familiarity with transfer students, including
admissions committees, committees that make enrollment decisions, committees that deal
with academic issues concerning transfer students, and committees that deal with social or
- Less than 10% of respondents had “a great deal” of experience advising community college
transfers, low‐income students, low‐income community college students, and
nontraditional age students.
- Among respondents with “some” experience teaching community college transfer students,
low‐income students, low‐income community college students, and nontraditional age
students, the largest pre‐post gain was in teaching community college students (pre‐ 33%,
post 56%) and low‐income community college students (pre‐ 23%, post 46%).
- More respondents in the post‐survey than in the pre‐survey expressed support for transfer
- Although most respondents said that their college/university does an “excellent” job
preparing students for graduate school and achieving liberal learning outcomes, on both
pre‐ and post‐surveys,13 far fewer indicated that their institutions were “excellent” at
serving students who need social/personal support, students who need academic support
due to learning disabilities or inadequate preparation, or nontraditional age students.
Relationship between Faculty Familiarity with CCTI and Support
As mentioned earlier, on the whole, familiarity with the campus CCTI and CCTI students was associated
with more positive responses concerning support of CCTI students.
Faculty respondents who were familiar with their institution’s CCTI, who interacted with CCTI
students as advisees or in class, and who interacted with community college faculty, were more
likely to favor institutional supports for these students and to recognize a relationship between
transfer policies and practices and institutional mission and goals. To examine these relationships,
questions about faculty attitudes were grouped into two scales, one looking at respondents’ views
of the relationship between transfer policies/programs and institutional goals, and the other their
views on student preparation and need for support.
The following tables illustrate various aspects of the relationships between faculty familiarity with
community colleges, the CCTI program and students, and support for the campus CCTI.
- Table 2.1, Support for Transfer Policies and Program by Respondents’ Familiarity with Own
Institution’s CCTI Programs/Policies, shows that familiarity with the CCTI was associated
with higher levels of support for policies, programs, and services for transfer students.
- Table 2.2, Support for Transfer Policies and Program by Respondents’ Interaction with
Community College Faculty, indicates that interaction with community college faculty was
positively associated with higher levels of support for policies, programs, and services for
- Table 2.3, Support for Transfer Policies and Program by Respondents’ Frequency of Teaching
CCTI‐Type Students, shows that teaching CCTI students was positively associated with
faculty support for academic and social services for community college transfer students.
- Table 2.4, Support for Transfer Policies and Program by Respondents’ Frequency of Advising
CCTI‐Type Students, shows that advising CCTI students was associated with faculty support
for academic and social services for CCTI students.
High levels of institutional readiness and institutional buy‐in were associated with the more
effective and sustainable CCTI programs. Thus, paving the way may be as important as program
design – i.e., before implementing a community college transfer program, institutions should pay
explicit attention to assessing, and enhancing where needed, readiness and buy‐in. Key elements of
institutional readiness were alignment with the institutional mission and/or strategic plan and a
learner‐centered campus culture that supports student success. The primary component of
institutional buy‐in was a critical mass of high‐level and broad‐based commitment from
administrators, faculty, and staff. Promising practices to achieve buy‐in include institution‐wide
committees, operation out of an appropriate high‐level office, meaningful outreach efforts to faculty by initiative leaders, and creating opportunities for CCTI students to speak about their experiences
to both internal and external audiences.
Faculty attitudes are an important part of institutional buy‐in. A faculty survey conducted at two of
the smaller CCTI campuses results show a generally positive trend in faculty attitudes toward
transfer policies and the presence of community college transfer students on their campuses. They
also show positive associations between supportive attitudes about the idea of community college
transfer and increased familiarity with the CCTI, with CCTI students, and with community college
Finding and Preparing the Right Students through Partnerships with Community Colleges
A community college partner said, “The partnership is going great. Anything we’ve asked
of them, they have responded to. Our working relationship is both professional and
personal, and I know our students love [the four‐year point person]. They can call her,
and they feel welcome.”
An upfront investment of human and other resources in developing and sustaining partnerships
between four‐ and two‐year institutions pays off in terms of finding the right students for the
transfer program and facilitating their transition from the two‐ to the four‐year setting through
pre‐enrollment support and fostering student readiness. This chapter discusses lessons learned
from the CCTI about these partnerships; about identifying and recruiting students; and about pre‐
enrollment support and student readiness.
Partnerships between Community Colleges and Selective Four‐Year Institutions
An important part of the four‐year institutions’ CCTI strategy was establishing or strengthening
relationships with one or more community colleges. Such partnerships played a central role in
identifying and recruiting CCTI students. Many of these students are first‐generation and/or
nontraditional students who would not, without encouragement and support, have considered
applying for transfer to a selective four‐year college or university. The partnerships were also at
the heart of developing effective practices to support and prepare prospective transfer students.
The most robust of the CCTI partnerships:
- Focus specific attention on identifying and recruiting appropriate students for transfer.
- Develop and employ structures and processes that facilitate regular communication
- Involve key individuals and/or units that can facilitate community college student transfer.
- Provide a variety of opportunities for community college student to enhance their readiness
for success at the four‐year campus.
- Are characterized by professional respect, mutuality, and trust, which lead to opportunities
for shared learning and program improvement.
Structures such as advisory or oversight boards and planning committees, and the designation of
point persons with the authority to make decisions, create durable links between partnering
campuses and promote collaboration, information sharing, and knowledge creation. Three effective
- UNC‐CH convened a planning team consisting of deans and transfer advisors from the
community college partners, representatives from the UNC‐CH College of Arts & Sciences,
student affairs, and financial aid, and the C‐STEP director and coordinator. The goal was to
improve understanding of the low‐ to moderate‐income community college students’
decision‐making process and factors that contribute to their success. Follow‐up meetings
addressed funding, budget, and program changes and oriented new community college
advisors to the program.
- Cornell’s Pathway to Success Advisory Committee, convened to guide the program and
resolve policy‐related issues, included admissions staff, deans, and other administrators as
well as representatives from partnering community colleges.
- Bucknell’s CCTI leader met frequently with the institution’s community college partners,
both individually and as a group.
The CCTI institutions and their community college partners took a variety of approaches to their
joint CCTI work. The following examples illustrate academic collaborations, partnership‐enhancing
communications, and student roles in the partnership.
- Mount Holyoke and Holyoke Community College faculty together designed and
implemented a new team‐taught, interdisciplinary course for students from both campuses.
Class meetings alternated between the campuses. The CCTI grant supported faculty
stipends, transportation, and honoraria for outside speakers.
- Amherst hosted several Community College Collaborative Faculty Workshops which
included panels of Amherst CCTI students, workshops on teaching and learning for Amherst
and community college faculty, and opportunities for community college advisors and
students to learn more about the CCTI. Discussions begun through these workshops led to
Amherst and Holyoke Community College developing a pilot project in which faculty
members from both institutions will co‐teach a course for students from both institutions.
Classes will meet on each campus for half of the semester.
- Bucknell’s Summer Academic Program is a partnership effort to promote prospective
community college transfer student success. The program offers classes; academic,
extracurricular, and residential support; and campus experiences for prospective transfer
students. Classes are co‐taught by Bucknell and community college faculty; teaching
assistants are students who have transferred from community colleges to Bucknell.
Community college students apply to attend the summer before they apply to transfer to
Bucknell. During the course of the CCTI, Bucknell changed its criteria for summer faculty so
that community college faculty without PhDs can teach in the program.
- UNC and its three community college partners engaged in collaborative scholarly efforts.
For example, the C‐STEP coordinator at UNC and C‐STEP advisors at partnering community
college jointly presented on C‐STEP at local, regional, and national conferences.
- U‐M hosted several conferences for community college partner. The kick‐off “Call to Action”
Conference was attended by community college presidents, vice‐presidents, provosts, or
deans and the U‐M president, vice‐provost, deans, program directors, students, staff, and
faculty. The university convened several other statewide and regional meetings, primarily
with community college counselors and other staff, focusing on U‐M programs, admissions,
financial aid, and community college transfers. U‐M also forged working relationships with
the leaders of the Michigan Community College Association and traveled to individual
community colleges (their “road show” is described in the box below).
- UC Berkeley’s partnerships with community colleges were primarily implemented through
Transfer Assistance Program (TAP) advisors, who address prospective transfer students’
informational needs throughout the outreach, recruiting, and application process. Using an
individualized advising model, TAP advisors provide course planning assistance and guide
students through the UC Berkeley application process. The individualized approach leads
TAP advisors to urge students to apply to other four‐year institutions as well as to UC
Berkeley and find their best “fit.”
Challenge: At the start of the CCTI, U‐M did not have close relationships with many of the state’s
community colleges. In fact many community college administrators and faculty appeared not to trust
the university, often did not advise their students to apply to the U‐M, and lacked knowledge about U‐M
admissions procedures and financial aid possibilities.
Strategy: U‐M developed the “road show” in which a core group of staff visited all 31 community colleges
in the state to inform students, faculty, and staff about U‐M. The road show covered admissions, financial
aid, transfer credits, and other matters, and put a human face on U‐M. In addition, the group could
address questions and feedback from the community colleges.
Student Roles in the Partnership
- CCTI students contributed to Cornell’s partnerships by founding a student organization “to
create a sense of community, belonging, and success” for current and prospective CCTI
students.14 Several served as ambassadors to community colleges, making presentations to
staff and students and meeting with prospective transfer students to answer questions,
guide them though aspects of the application and admissions process, and offer a candid
“student’s eye view” of the post‐transfer academic and social experience.
- UC‐Berkeley hired post‐transfer students to visit community college campuses to
supplement the outreach efforts of the TAP advisors (see next section).
- Campuses widely sought student input before, during, and after transfer and responded to
student suggestions for program improvements.
Identifying and Recruiting Students
As relationships were established, the CCTI partners began to identify and recruit high‐achieving,
low‐ to moderate‐income transfer students. Identifying prospective CCTI students early is
important, because it leaves more time for campus visits, program engagement, and academic
preparation, all of which lead to greater college success. Generally, very little in the backgrounds of
first‐generation, low‐income, or nontraditional community college transfer students has laid the
groundwork for transfer to an elite college or university, except their own talent and motivation:
they lack the repertoire of information and experiences that equip their middle‐class counterparts
to navigate a college setting with relative ease. Personalized attention from trusted adults and
peers is critical in recruitment. (Chapter 4 discusses this point further and details the kinds of
assistance and supports students valued, based on the student survey findings.)
Key CCTI identification and recruitment strategies were to develop point people at both the two‐
year and four‐year campuses and establish and maintain good communication to not only
reach prospective students but also to help both partners learn more about each other’s structure
and culture, as well as opportunities for program improvement.
Effective point people at the four‐year campus represented offices and units that are central to
supporting community college transfer students. In frequent phone and email contact with community college partners, they shared information about (and interpreted) policies, conveyed
academic expectations, and provided technical advice.
The CCTI campuses also found – or developed and even funded – many point people at the
community colleges. Knowledgeable and accessible point people (regardless of role or title) can
identify promising candidates for transfer, quickly get them involved, and develop trusting
relationships that allow them to determine student needs and link them with appropriate offices,
individuals, and services on the four‐year campus. For example:
- Using CCTI grant funds, Mount Holyoke funded a full‐time transfer liaison to coordinate the
Pathways Program housed at Holyoke Community College. An alumna of both Holyoke
Community College and Mount Holyoke, the liaison identified, encouraged, and advised
eligible prospective Mount Holyoke transfer students, and provided more broadly‐based
advising to prepare students for transfer to other selective liberal arts colleges.
- Dedicated, grant‐funded advisors (two each at UNC‐CH’s three community college partners)
identified students for C‐STEP and advised students until they enroll at UNC‐CH.
- Bucknell used grant funds to help partners cover participation costs, to ensure regular and
close communications with the point people at its five community college partners.
- The USC program liaison maintained close relationships with the community college
partners’ point people, providing not only support regarding USC admission, but also (in
collaboration with the point people) on‐site advising to students interested in other
Each of the CCTI campuses took steps to develop and maintain good communication between
partners, among multiple offices, and with prospective students to increase their ability to identify
and recruit students. Following are some examples:
- UNC‐CH admissions, advising, and financial aid staff conducted workshops and information
sessions at partnering community colleges. Once students transferred to UNC‐CH, the staff
continued to support them. The UNC‐CH advising liaison met with partner school advisors
to let them know about UNC‐CH curriculum changes and reinforced their connection
through email and phone calls to keep communication lines open if questions arose.
- Cornell hired a Pathway to Success Program coordinator who conducted outreach to and
informational sessions for community college partners. Individual college admissions
officers also work with community college partner representatives to help students stay on
track with their applications.
- U‐M teams from admissions, financial aid, and other administrative and academic units met
with students and staff at community colleges around the state, providing information and
developing relationships. They also offered Community College Transfer Days for
prospective transfer students and workshops for community college counselors.
Recruitment coordinators from several U‐M schools conducted additional visits and
assisted community college students with planning coursework.
- UC Berkeley TAP advisors worked with community college transfer counselors, student
services programs, faculty, and students. Community colleges referred first‐generation,
low‐income students with high GPAs to the TAP advisors, usually after one semester;
students could also self‐refer. TAP advisors made presentations in classrooms, held office
hours, and met with staff.
- The Bucknell CCTI coordinator, a senior admissions administrator, not only met regularly
with community college partner point people but also worked directly with interested
community college students. Prospective transfer students were encouraged to visit
Bucknell individually and on organized (free) trips.
- The USC SCholars program coordinator was a key communications conduit with the three
community college partners, holding regular office hours at each campus and advising
students about transfer to USC.
- Amherst admissions staff presented program information at community college transfer
fairs across the nation and met with prospective students at a local community college to
answer questions about transfer.
- As noted earlier, Mount Holyoke funded a transfer coordinator at Holyoke Community
College. Mount Holyoke staff also regularly visited other community colleges around the
United States to establish limited partnerships and recruit students.
- Most campuses revised their websites to be more helpful and accessible to prospective
community college transfer students. They continued to improve the websites based on
feedback from students and community college partners.
- All campuses developed new written materials for prospective transfer students, and a
number of them – both four‐year and two‐year – produced DVDs and other materials to
attract and inform prospective students.
- Current CCTI students at several campuses are powerful ambassadors to prospective CCTI
students at community college. Speaking from personal experience, peers (especially those
from similar backgrounds) can provide insight into the transfer process with a high level of
credibility and contagious enthusiasm.
All CCTI campuses and their partners utilized logical channels to find qualified prospective transfer
students, such as outreach to students who had high GPAs, were participating in honors classes, or
were members of an honor society. They also, however, were committed to finding students who
might not consider transferring to a four‐year institution, especially a highly selective one. They
worked with their community college partners to conduct targeted recruitment for low‐income
students, students from diverse backgrounds, veterans, and what one campus called “diamonds in
the rough” (students with great potential but whose qualifications might not be obvious from
student records, participation in honors programs, or honor society membership). Strategies
included developing relationships with faculty generally; with faculty teaching outside of liberal
arts (e.g., in tech courses); with faculty teaching developmental courses; with staff working as
advocates for first‐generation, low‐income students (e.g., the federal TRIO program); and with
student groups such as the Black Student Union or the Hispanic Pre‐Law Society. Community
college faculty may recognize potential in a student’s academic work or through advising and be a
powerful source of encouragement for students. For example, an Alamance Community College
faculty member referred a student enrolled in a two‐year computer program to UNC‐CH’s C‐STEP
based on the quality of a story he had written for her class. A Merritt College faculty member
encouraged two students to move from the paralegal training program to the arts and sciences
track and apply for transfer to UC Berkeley, based on their writing and analytical skills.
Challenge: Through the Frances Perkins program, Mount Holyoke was already attracting nontraditional
students (including from community colleges). However, not all of these students were low‐ to
moderate‐income, first generation students.
Strategy: Mount Holyoke determined that a “person on the ground” at their primary community college
partner would help them to increase the number of students in the target group. They used some of their
grant funds to pay the salary of a transfer coordinator, housed at the community college, who identified
and recruited students for transfer, while providing overall advising to prepare students for transfer to
selective liberal arts colleges.
Challenge: UCB had experience and success recruiting community college students through their
Transfer Assistance Program (TAP), but less experience and success recruiting low‐ to moderate‐income,
first generation students, especially those from Southern California.
Strategy: UCB increased TAP advisor time on partner campuses, including in Southern California, and
enhanced opportunities for TAP‐Cooke students to spend time on campus pre‐admission (through
summer research, special visits, and dual enrollment opportunities). TAP advisors work with
prospective transfer students throughout the outreach, recruiting, and application process, providing
individualized course planning assistance and guidance.
Pre‐Enrollment Support and Student Readiness
To facilitate students’ transition from the two‐year to the four‐year institutions, the four‐year CCTI
campuses also developed structures and policies to support and prepare prospective applicants in
the early stages of the transfer process. As a four‐year campus administrator put it, it’s important
to “invest dedicated people and resources to helping community college students start to acclimate
BEFORE they arrive.” Key elements were directly involving admissions and financial aid,
developing reasonable credit transfer policies, and enhancing student readiness.
Admissions and Financial Aid
While no CCTI institution modified admissions standards or financial aid policies for CCTI students,
most engaged in some fine tuning. Importantly, they broadened perspectives to consider
prospective students’ unconventional backgrounds. In admissions, this involved understanding, for
example, that current high achievement may coexist with a history of having attended multiple
community colleges or with a mediocre high school or early community college GPA. In financial
aid, this required learning about CCTI students’ challenges, including students who were technically
considered dependent but were living independently (and sometimes unable to obtain financial
documents from estranged parents); students with children; students who were veterans; and
independent students who had already accumulated debt to finance their community college
education. Also, as one administrator said, “We can’t look at their prior year’s income in a vacuum.
So many of them were working significant hours while attending community college.” CCTI
institutions found the following types of efforts effective:
- Helping community college students and advisors to realize that the admissions process
may be more individualized, and the availability of financial aid greater, than they expect.
- Demystifying processes, policies, and paperwork, including making forms and websites
- Assigning staff to assist CCTI applicants with admissions and financial aid paperwork. Some
interviewees reported that paperwork is a bigger challenge than credit transfer for CCTI
students. The eight campuses already had staff who helped prospective students in these
areas – the “CCTI difference” was to ensure that a subgroup of staff had the knowledge
needed to address CCTI students’ questions and concerns. (For example, admissions staff at
some Cornell colleges contacted CCTI students who had been identified as candidates for
their programs and supported them throughout the application process.) This assistance
often went beyond completing forms to encouragement and support while the students
took a step that they may have thought impossible. As one UC Berkeley TAP advisor
explained, “We are the ones who say, ‘Yes, you can!’.”
- Promoting role flexibility, including encouraging staff to work and communicate across
divisions (e.g., between admissions and student affairs).
- Most campuses took steps to convey accurate and positive information to make the concept
of transferring from a community college to a selective four‐year institution more
transparent. For example, in U‐M’s “road show,” core staff visited community colleges to
inform students, faculty, and staff about U‐M. Based on experience, they developed a
marketing strategy focused on the feasibility of admissions success, affordability
(emphasizing actual cost rather than “sticker price”), and the benefits of a U‐M degree. They
also developed a simplified financial aid brochure and found new sources of support
specifically for community college transfer students to supplement financial aid packages.
- Amherst and USC adjusted the timing of their admission notifications based on feedback
from prospective CCTI students, who indicated that the timing made it difficult for those
who were denied admission to meet deadlines for accepting admissions offers from other
colleges. Amherst moved up admissions notification for community college transfers by one
month. USC offered conditional admission to competitive applicants who were still
completing requirements during the spring semester, instead of not making decisions until
after applicants completed spring courses, which could be as late as July. Receiving
notifications so much earlier allowed students time to consider options and make an
informed decision about which school to attend. USC interviewees said that the vast
majority of students offered conditional admission fulfilled the requirements, and an
increased number of transfer students attended orientation (considered important to
transfer success) because they had time to make arrangements to attend.
Credit Transfer Policies
Six CCTI campuses had to develop policies addressing community college transfer credits (UC
Berkeley and UNC‐CH had such policies in place before the CCTI). They took several approaches to
facilitating credit transfer. Important to all approaches were increased transparency and flexibility
– as one administrator said, “Students want a road map” to understand which community college
courses they should take and how many transfer credits they could expect. Most campuses found
that articulation agreements were less important than processes, systems, and a willingness to
negotiate. Champions were often an important part of the process – a single champion, or
champions across departments or schools. Most campuses found that credit transfer
determinations became more routine as experience built over time. Departments or schools were
least willing to be flexible about courses required for the major; it has been much easier for CCTI
students to transfer general education course credits. Following are specific examples:
- Bucknell’s provost worked with the academic departments and the community colleges to
evaluate courses for transfer credit. This began as a case‐by‐case analysis, but has become
more standard with experience.
- A dedicated advisor at UNC‐CH met with advisors at the partnering campuses to provide
updates on curriculum changes and with individual CCTI students to offer advice on course
selection at both the community college and at the university.
- To assist student planning, U‐M developed online course equivalency guides for every
Michigan community college, listing which community college courses would transfer for U‐
M credit. Prospective students could submit a community college course syllabus to some
U‐M schools, such as the School of Nursing, for faculty review prior to application.
- The transfer admissions coordinator at Cornell’s School of Engineering submitted syllabi
from partnering community colleges to departments for course pre‐approval, resulting in
advising guides for CCTI students.
Enhancing Student Readiness
Two important practices on the CCTI campuses for enhancing student readiness were adaptations
to visiting and orientation strategies and the development of academic summer programs.
Campus visits and orientations intended for traditional transfer students and freshmen often do not
meet the needs of community college transfer students. Based on experience and student input,
many sites adapted campus visits and orientations to better address the circumstances and age of
low‐ to moderate‐income community college students. For example:
- At UNC‐CH, an overnight orientation provided prospective CCTI students (the C‐STEP
cohort) with transfer information, an introduction to campus, and social events aimed at
group cohesion and cohort development. An individualized orientation activity paired a
community college student with one who has transferred. Attendance at one class was
required, but the rest of the plan was up to the host student. Prospective CCTI students
gained confidence and assistance from those who have successfully negotiated the four‐year
schools’ social and academic environments. All students from the three partner community
colleges also attended a performing arts event at UNC and were encouraged to attend one
or more financial aid sessions on campus to help them complete aid applications. In
addition, each partner community college developed activities to help C‐STEP students get
to know one another, increase their visibility within the community, help them succeed
academically, and acclimate them to UNC‐CH.
- At Cornell, CCTI students participated in a two‐day orientation program, with one day
dedicated to the Pathway to Success students. The timing of the program allowed Pathway
students to move into their residence halls early and meet other new residents.
- USC SCholars Club members (prospective transfer students enrolled at community colleges)
get SCholars Club ID cards, workshops, advising, and access to electronic USC resources,
including an email account. Also, in response to feedback from the first CCTI student cohort,
USC developed a one‐day program to help participants gain an understanding of student
life: “A Day in the Life of a Trojan” included a welcome by a senior student affairs official, a
campus tour, lunch in the dining hall, and shadowing current USC transfer students.
- UC Berkeley offered “TAP into CAL,” an intensive three‐day, two‐night immersion in
academic and campus life. As a result of feedback about the great and positive impact of the
experience for the original target group (prospective CCTI transfer students from Southern
California), UC Berkeley expanded the program to Northern California students.
Participants reported that the program was “excellent” – a number said it was “life‐
Challenge: Because their lives are exceptionally busy, often with work and family obligations, some
prospective community college transfer students were not able to take full advantage of UNC‐CH’s C‐
STEP services, which C‐STEP personnel considered important to post‐transfer student success.
Strategy: C‐STEP personnel spent more time building relationships with the units and individuals across
campus upon which C‐STEP students depend for help. In addition, UNC‐CH gave C‐STEP students more
time to complete their transfer applications than other transfer applicants. Also, C‐STEP students were
given UNC‐CH ID cards pre‐admission, to facilitate access to libraries and enrollment in summer school
Some CCTI campuses offered academic summer residential programs in which students take part in
classes, research, and co‐curricular activities to increase their understanding of and comfort with
campus structures and culture, and help them make the best use of their abbreviated time on
campus after transfer.
- Bucknell’s Summer Academic Program offered credit‐bearing classes co‐taught by Bucknell
and community college faculty; academic, extracurricular, and residential support; and
campus experiences. Accepted students attended at no cost. Participating students, faculty,
and administrators saw the residential program as an excellent orientation to Bucknell
academics and campus life. Teaching assistants, beginning in summer 2008, were CCTI
students who had participated in the prior summer’s program and later enrolled at
- UC Berkeley offered a competitive, tuition free, faculty‐mentored, six‐week summer
research enrichment program for prospective CCTI students as well as the opportunity to
take classes before applying for admission.
- UNC‐CH offered two five‐week condensed sessions during which C‐STEP students have the
option to finish community college requirements or take prerequisites prior to enrolling at
UNC‐CH. On‐campus housing is available.
- U‐M provided summer research fellowships to prospective CCTI students through the
Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. Students gained academic and professional
experience and had an opportunity to get to know the campus.
- USC offered an intensive summer writing course for newly accepted CCTI students, who
referred to it as “writing boot camp.”
Challenge: Experience with a past community college transfer initiative concerned Bucknell leaders.
Some students involved in that initiative did not fit in well on campus and did not succeed academically,
and the community college partnership was limited.
Strategy: Bucknell developed a summer residential program, with courses for credit and many supports,
to allow the students to experience the campus and academic culture and help them succeed. Community
college faculty co‐taught the courses with Bucknell faculty. In addition, Bucknell established close
partnerships with five community colleges. They met regularly to plan together and address issues and
An upfront investment in developing partnerships between two‐ and four‐year institutions pays off
in terms of identifying and recruiting community college transfer students – many of whom are
first‐generation and/or nontraditional students who would not, without encouragement and
support, have considered applying for transfer to a selective four‐year college or university – and facilitating their transition to the four‐year setting through pre‐enrollment support and
CCTI campuses found that structures such as advisory or oversight boards and planning
committees, and the availability of point persons with the authority to make decisions provide
durable links between partnering campuses and promote collaboration, information sharing, and
knowledge creation. The partners also designed and implemented academic collaborations,
emphasized communications, and encouraged students to play roles in the partnership.
Identifying prospective CCTI students early is important, because it leaves more time for campus
visits, program engagement, and better academic preparation, which lead to greater college
success. Effective CCTI identification and recruitment strategies were to develop point people at
both the two‐year and four‐year campuses and maintain good communication to reach prospective
students, while helping both institutional partners learn more about each other’s structure, culture,
and opportunities for program improvement. The CCTI campuses also developed structures and
policies to support and prepare prospective applicants in the early stages of the transfer process.
Key elements were directly involving admissions and financial aid, developing reasonable credit
transfer policies, and enhancing student readiness.
CCTI Student Characteristics, Outcomes, and Experiences
This chapter provides an in‐depth look at the characteristics, outcomes, and experiences (academic,
co‐curricular, and personal) of the CCTI students, based on academic and financial aid student
record data as well as student responses to surveys. The first section profiles the CCTI students,
and the second discusses their academic success. The third and fourth address the community
college experiences along the pathway to the four‐year institution and those directly related to the
transfer. The fifth section discusses students’ experiences at the four‐year.
CCTI Students: A Profile
From 2007 (when the first “official” CCTI students enrolled) through 2010, just over one thousand
students matriculated to the eight CCTI schools because of the CCTI (see Table 4.1).
Overall, CCTI students were more ethnically and racially diverse, as well as older, than comparison
group transfer students or native students (students who started as freshmen at the four‐year
institution). Table 4.2 displays key demographic characteristics of these three groups, based on
institutional student record data.
CCTI students also had greater levels of financial need and received higher levels of financial
support than comparison group transfer students or native students, including substantial financial
support directly from the institutions. Table 4.3 summarizes budgeted cost, financial need (as
shown by expected family contribution), and total financial aid, separating the results for the five
private and three public CCTI institutions.
On the whole, CCTI students were very successful academically at the four‐year institutions. Very
few CCTI students or other transfer students dropped or failed classes: the CCTI students
consistently earned about 95% of the credits they attempted, while other transfer students earned
about 97%. While the academic performance (as measured by ratio of credit hours earned and
attempted and GPA) of native and comparison group transfer students was slightly stronger than
that of the CCTI students, and some of these differences are statistically significant (i.e., unlikely to
have occurred by chance), the differences are small when considering institutional definitions of
student academic success. Table 4.4 compares the GPAs of CCTI, other transfer, and native students
The Pathway to the Four‐Year Institutions: Community College Experiences
While CCTI students performed well once they were at the four‐year institution, they followed a
different pathway into postsecondary education than most of their four‐year institution peers.
- Following high school (or obtaining a GED), over half (57%) of the respondents worked full
or part‐time, while 43% went directly to a community college. Approximately 8% served in
- A sizable majority of respondents (79%) had planned or expected to go on to a four‐year
college or university.
- Most (87%) CCTI respondents had been enrolled at their community college full‐time, and
about 70% earned an associate’s degree prior to matriculating to the four‐year institution.
Though a large majority (83%) felt very well or well prepared for community college academics,
they did describe ways in which they might have felt even more prepared:, 43% said better time
management would have helped, 34% working harder (e.g., studying more, seeking academic help,
taking more challenging classes), and 24% “meeting with community college faculty and or student
services in advance.” In addition, roughly one‐fifth thought that talking more to people who went to
college, developing closer relationships with high school teachers, advisors and or guidance
counselors, and more opportunities to use technology would have helped.
Most respondents said that their main reasons for going to community college were career
oriented: almost two‐thirds (63%) said, “I decided to pursue a career that required a college
education” and about one‐third (32%) said, “I learned about the importance of a college education
from a job, volunteer experience or internship.” About 20% said that friends or family convinced
them to go to college.
The majority of respondents received financial aid while at community college. Seventy percent
received college scholarships or grants; 26% received loans; and 17% work‐study. Twenty‐three
percent did not receive any financial aid while at community college.
Students were asked about personal, financial, academic, and social challenges they encountered at
community college. The biggest challenges had to do with family, paying for school related
expenses, staying focused and maintaining a work/play balance, and managing time and stress.
Table 4.5 itemizes the main challenges cited. The primary people identified as having helped
respondents meet these challenges were friends, family and/or religious leader (80%), a faculty
member or teaching assistant (78%), and an advisor or counselor (62%).
Transfer Plans and Decisions
Survey findings show that students at the community colleges made use of people, activities, and
services to help inform their plan to transfer and had a number of different reasons for transferring.
Respondents engaged in a number of activities on the four‐year campus prior to transferring. A
large majority (84%) spoke with advisors/counselors at the four‐year about courses to take, major
requirements, and education plans before transferring. Eighty percent talked with students on the
four‐year campus, 77% got financial aid information from the four‐year campus, and 69%
participated in a special on‐campus orientation program. About one‐third had taken courses taught
by four‐year faculty and/or stayed overnight on the four‐year campus.
A wide array of individuals supported or guided the respondents in their decision to transfer to a
four‐year institution. Those who received “some” or “a great deal” of guidance received it mostly
from friends, family, or a religious leader (79%), community college faculty members or teaching
assistants (77%), community college advisors/counselors (66%), and representatives from the
four‐year college or university (63%).
Students’ primary reported reasons for applying to the CCTI four‐year institution were:
- It has a good reputation (92%)
- It offers the major I intend to declare and the kinds of classes I want to take (74%)
- It will count my community college classes for transfer credit (71%)
- It will give me financial aid (64%)
- A teacher or administrator at my community college encouraged me to apply (53%)
- I participated in a special program designed to help students transfer to this four‐year
Experience at the Four‐Year
The survey findings offer insights into respondents’ experiences and circumstances at the four‐year
institution, in terms of co‐curricular activities, preparation, housing, financial aid, future plans,
challenges, and supports.
At baseline, a majority of students expected to be, or were already, involved in extra or co‐
curricular activities on the four‐year campus, including clubs (63%), community service or
community activism (52%), sports (22%), creative arts (18%), and student government (12%). On
the end‐of‐year survey, over half (51%) of respondents had gotten involved with clubs, 43% with
community service or community activism, 19% in creative arts, 18% in sports, 6% in student
government, and 20% in other activities.
When asked how well prepared they felt for life on the four‐year campus, respondents were fairly
confident about their academic preparation: 63% felt well or very well prepared. Over half (53%)
expressed the same confidence about other aspects of life (e.g., social, personal) on the four‐year
campus. At the same time, these proportions mean that a substantial minority did not feel well
prepared or confident.
At baseline, nearly half of survey respondents were living in campus housing, with 37% in a
residence hall and 9% in other types of campus housing. About one‐fifth (22%) were living with
their families, and 15% were living in a private residence with roommates. Nine percent were
living alone in a private residence.
As noted previously, for CCTI students, a high level of financial aid is critical to their ability to enter
postsecondary education, especially a four‐year institution. When asked how important financial
aid was in their decision to apply to a four‐year institution, 88% of respondents called it important
or very important. This contrasts with 61% (still greater than half of the respondents) who said aid
was important or very important in their decision to attend community college.
CCTI students typically worked to support themselves throughout their community college careers,
and many had family responsibilities as well.17 The shift to being a full‐time student at the four‐ year, while welcome by the students we interviewed, also raised concerns about being able to meet
their financial obligations. While at the community college, nearly half (47%) of the CCTI survey
respondents worked 20 hours or more a week, and only 17% did not have a job. Of the students
who had worked 20 hours or more per week during community college, 51% reported that they did
not have a job, and 28% worked 10 hours or fewer a week. Fifteen percent of these students
expected to provide moderate or high levels of financial support to their spouse/partner and/or
children while enrolled at the four‐year institution, and 9% expected to provide similar levels of
support to their extended family. When asked about anticipated loan amounts for themselves or
their parents at the end of their undergraduate education, nearly two‐thirds of respondents (63%)
said their parents would have none or that the question wasn’t applicable. Roughly one‐third
(35%) expected to have $15,000 or more, and 16% expected to have between $10,000 and $15,000.
Twelve percent expected they would have no loan burden. These responses suggest that the
financial aid the CCTI students were receiving met their need.
Asked about plans for the following year, 81% of all end‐of‐year survey respondents indicated that
they plan to continue attending their current college or university. Among the 13% who were not
continuing, 8% were going to graduate school and 10% were starting their careers. Six students
(1.4%) were transferring to another four‐year institution. Seventy‐nine percent of all end‐of‐year
survey respondents expect to go to graduate or professional school following their graduation from
Challenges and Supports18
Students were asked to describe their biggest challenges to staying in or succeeding at their four‐
year institution. A consistently high percentage reported facing academic, stress, and time
management challenges. Concerns about paying for tuition, books and supplies were substantial at
baseline, but lessened over time, as did concerns about keeping up with reading, papers, and exams.
Some concerns – family, mental/emotional health, stress from work demands – increased slightly.
In the end‐of‐year survey, students were asked about difficulties they had experienced over the
past academic year. Almost half reported having had serious personal difficulties; almost as many
reported having had financial difficulties (see Table 4.7).
As Table 4.8 shows, among the four main categories of challenges – personal, resource, academic,
and social – resource (financial) challenges showed the biggest change (a statistically significant
decrease) from respondents’ expectations at the start of their studies at the four‐year to their actual
experience (reporting on the end‐of‐year survey). The changes in the other three categories were
not statistically significant.
Specific items within the categories of challenges showed statistically significant differences
between the baseline and end‐of‐year survey. These are shown in Table 4.9, starting with personal
challenges, the only category that showed an increase. In all others, specific challenges decreased
as students spent more time at the four‐year institution.
Among personal challenges, concerns about family, age, physical and emotional health showed
slight increases between the baseline and end‐of‐year surveys, while concerns about personal
safety decreased. Concerns about financial resources and the challenge of keeping up with papers
diminished over time, as did the challenges of maintaining a work/play balance and of concerns
about speaking in public.
Respondents credited certain individuals and services with helping them face challenges and
supporting their persistence at the four‐year institution. They reported friends and family as the
most helpful, followed by faculty members, teaching assistants, and advisors. Mentoring from faculty, staff, or older students was especially helpful. These individuals and services are shown in
Tables 4.10 and 4.11.
Correlations were analyzed to better understand the relationship between supports and challenges.
In Table 4.12, significance scores suggest an association between certain services and related
challenges, indicating that students reporting difficulty may have sought support from appropriate
services and individuals.
Table 4.13 similarly shows that personal supports from advisors, faculty mentors, family and
friends, bosses, and others were correlated with challenges.
Services that were not significantly correlated with challenges included language services, math
labs, financial aid workshops, sports, student government, music and art, clubs, or community
Of the CCTI students who completed baseline and end‐of‐year surveys, 164 completed multiple
surveys, allowing us to compare the impact of early experiences on their sense of “fitting in” and on
later challenges for this “matched” subgroup of respondents. This section asks, “What are the odds
of CCTI students fitting in or facing challenges at four‐year institutions if they received supports
and mentoring?” Regression models were used to explore the matched respondents’ perceptions of
supports relative to challenges they faced and the extent to which they feel like they fit in at the
Of all the factors assessed in the model, two were negatively correlated with fitting in: being first in
family to attend college and academic tutoring.20 The challenge of fitting in at the four‐year was
most acute for first generation CCTI students – respondents in the matched group who were the
first in their family to attend a college or university were about one‐third as likely to feel like they
belonged as CCTI student survey respondents who had college‐going backgrounds. A student who
participated in academic tutoring was about one‐fifth (22.3%) as likely to report fitting in.
For all matched respondents, campus mentoring programs and support from family and friends
were the most powerful predictors of feelings of belonging. Students who were mentored by
faculty, staff, or older students were nearly 5½ times more likely to feel like they fit in than those
who did not have campus mentors. The most important source of support from off campus was
family, friends and religious leaders; students with family support were about 4½ times more likely
to feel like they belonged. Table 4.14 shows odds ratios for factors found to demonstrate significant
changes in the likelihood that a participant would say they fit in at their last survey assessment.
Also, as can be seen in Table 4.15, students who reported receiving support from family, friends and
religious leaders were 4.5 times as likely to report that they fit in as those that did not.
Table 4.16 shows the results of a series of logistic regression equations that analyzed the categories
of challenges (personal, resource, academic, and social) that respondents in the matched group
reported in baseline and end‐of‐year surveys. Those who took advantage of peer or professional
personal counseling, or sought help from student affairs or student services, were three times more
likely to report family challenges, suggesting a relationship between the use of counseling and
Table 4.17 shows that those who reported that advisors/counselors helped them meet challenges
were only 14.9% as likely to report poor advising, while those who sought help from “others” were
6.369 times more likely to report a “lack of or poor advising” as a challenge. Those students were
also much less likely (37.6%) to report family challenges. Those who used student affairs services
were three times more likely to report family challenges and 2½ times more likely to report
adjustment challenges. This may suggest that the student affairs services are particularly suited to
working with students facing family and adjustment challenges. Finally, students who sought
support from a boss or work supervisor were three times more likely to report challenges in
adjusting to college life.
The analysis of student surveys and student record data suggests that:
- The CCTI campuses successfully recruited their target group (low‐ to moderate income, high‐
achieving community college students).
- CCTI students were more ethnically and racially diverse, as well as older, than comparison
group transfer students or native students.
- CCTI students were very successful academically at the four‐year institutions.
- CCTI students often followed a different pathway into postsecondary education than native
students or other transfer students, with more than half of them working (rather than going to
college) after they completed high school or a GED.
- Most CCTI students felt very well prepared for community college academics, but many said
that time management skills, working harder, or meeting with community college faculty or
student services in advance would have helped them to feel more prepared. Their biggest
challenges at community college had to do with family, paying for school‐related expenses,
staying focused, maintaining a work/play balance, and managing time and stress. The majority
had received financial aid while enrolled at community college.
- A large majority of student respondents had talked with a counselor/advisor about courses to
take, requirements, and education plans prior to transfer. A wide array of individuals had
provided support or guidance – most frequently friends, family, religious leaders, community
college faculty, community college advisor/counselor, and representatives from the four‐year
institution. Respondents engaged in a number of activities on the four‐year campus prior to
transferring – most frequently speaking with advisors/counselors, students, and financial aid
specialists and participating in special on‐campus orientation programs.
- The survey findings also offer insights into respondents’ experiences at the four‐year
institution. Most engaged in co‐curricular activities and were fairly confident about being
prepared academically as well as socially/personally. They received high levels of financial aid.
Respondents reported feeling particularly challenged in the areas of academics, time
management, stress management, paying for tuition, books, and supplies, and keeping up with
reading, papers, and exams. However, many of these challenges lessened after the students had
been at the four‐year institution longer; in particular, concerns about resources decreased over
time. For all respondents, campus mentoring programs/strategies and off‐campus support
from family and friends were the most powerful predictors of students’ feelings of belonging.
Finally, 79% of all end‐of‐year survey respondents expected to go on to graduate or
In short, the community college transfer students performed well following matriculation to the
four‐year institution. In addition to being academically successful, they became active members of
their campus communities – they joined (and even formed) student organizations as well as athletic
teams, peer mentoring programs, and student government, to name a few. Some campuses had to
adjust their support services to respond to nontraditional student needs, but all campuses reported
that the CCTI students’ presence on campus added value.
Sustaining the Success of Community College Transfer at the Four‐year Institution
A CCTI student said, “The monthly dinners and activities have been really good. We
have our own community, but we’re not necessarily separate from other students [on
campus]. It helps with adjustment to have a group you can click with.”
An administrator on a four‐year CCTI campus said, “Unless we’re able to keep them, it’s
not a successful access program.”
Pre‐enrollment support can go a long way towards preparing community college transfer students
to negotiate an academically rigorous institution. However, for a successful transition, many
community college transfer students need developmentally appropriate academic, social, personal,
and other support. Administrators and faculty from the CCTI campuses repeatedly pointed out that
CCTI students are similar to freshmen in some ways, but are both more mature and usually from
different backgrounds. They need some of the same supports, as well as specialized supports that
take these differences into account. For example, colleges and universities report that, overall,
students enrolling as freshmen are less prepared to meet college‐level writing and quantitative
expectations than were previous generations (Swail 2006). It is not surprising, then, that
community college transfer students need help to refine their academic skills. In addition, they
need assistance to develop strategies to manage the academic work load, including the increased
quantity of reading, at the four‐year level. Three main approaches to these issues across the CCTU
campuses can be grouped under three headings: academic integration, social integration, and using
data to sustain success.
Ensuring that CCTI students were able to do their best academic work involved early identification
of those who were struggling academically and facilitating their access to academic supports,
especially advising. Linked to academic success is the degree to which students feel that they
“belong” on the four‐year campus and are integrated into the academic and social culture (Strauss
and Volkwein 2004). The use of cohort models and peer mentoring helped CCTI students find their
place on campus. Another important part of sustaining student and program success is effectively
using data to inform program improvement, which can result in customized and more effective
support systems to enhance student success and transformation. All of the campuses used data in
these ways, and their approaches became even more sophisticated over time.
Transfer students in general often struggle academically during their first semester while adapting
to the new setting (Harbin 1997): for low‐ to moderate‐income, first‐generation, and often
nontraditional community college transfer students, adjusting academically to the four‐year
institution is especially complicated. By all accounts, however, CCTI students generally were as
academically successful as their counterparts who enrolled as freshmen, even in the first semester
(perhaps a reflection of pre‐enrollment and transitional supports). CCTI campuses reported that
CCTI students tended to be highly motivated to tackle academic work and made the most of their
experience at the four‐year campus. The vast majority (70%) of CCTI student survey respondents
reported that they were either well prepared or very‐well prepared for academics at the four‐year
institution. Only a little over one in four (28%) reported having serious academic difficulties during
the previous academic year, and even fewer (19%) reported having thought about dropping out.
Still, CCTI students reported that (1) keeping up with reading, papers, and exams, (2) motivation
and staying focused, and (3) time management were more challenging at the four‐year campus,
compared to their prior community college experience.
Campus strategies to help CCTI students integrate academically included the following:
- Several campuses have made concerted efforts to change students’ perception of academic
support centers: they want students to think about them as places where successful
students go to refine skills and enhance success, instead of places where only struggling
students go for remediation.
- Some campuses set up academic integration activities to help CCTI students get on the right
track early. For example, the U‐M College of Engineering initiated a seminar on Matlab (an
interactive program for numerical computation and data visualization and an important
component of engineering coursework) for newly admitted transfer students.
- Most campuses instituted a system to identify CCTI students who were struggling
academically. For instance, the USC SCholars Club tracked CCTI students’ academic
progress and, using mid‐semester grades, identified those in need of academic assistance
such as tutoring or increased use of faculty office hours. Other campuses relied on
institutional “early warning” systems and on the observations of key people involved with
CCTI students. Many gave CCTI students priority access to institutional academic supports.
- Several campuses encourage CCTI students to take advantage of research opportunities
with faculty. For example, USC’s CCTI students have been selected to participate in
fellowship programs designed to encourage underrepresented students to pursue doctoral
degrees and to give students a global perspective and professional experience in their field
of interest. UC Berkeley and U‐M, as mentioned earlier, offered summer mentored research
Advising has also played a central role in helping CCTI students to adapt to a rigorous academic
setting. CCTI students may need foundational information about campus advising, including the
role of faculty and professional advisors and how to register for and drop classes. Advisors who are
knowledgeable about community college transfer student needs can be particularly effective.
- A professional UNC‐CH advisor served as a pre‐ and post‐admissions point person for C‐
STEP students. Within individual departments, C‐STEP students are assigned to advisors
who have experience with the transfer advising committee.
- U‐M advisors are trained on transfer issues, resources, and support.
- Mount Holyoke set up a system to create better student‐advisor matches.
The survey data show that students who experienced higher levels of academic challenges were
likely to use available support services, and took advantage of academic tutoring, study groups,
mentoring, counseling, and writing centers. Academic advisors were the most significant source of
support for these students; mentoring from faculty, staff, or older students was the next most
significant. Family and friends, bosses, and others were also sources of support.
A final area increasingly in evidence on CCTI campuses is support for post‐graduation planning.
- UNC‐CH included presentations on career planning as part of C‐STEP monthly dinner
- At UC Berkeley, students considered the Career/Major Pathway Program (a panel of
speakers from the career center), part of the three‐day TAP into CAL event for prospective
students, to be very effective and useful. UC Berkeley also held Career/Major alumni panels
in collaboration with the campus Career Center.
- Amherst’s Bridge to the Future (part of career services) supported students in identifying
and achieving post‐graduation goals, applying for graduate school, and conducting job
- The Cornell CCTI coordinator served as a career planning resource to students and planned
- UNC‐CH’s University Career Services sponsored an ongoing series of events for C‐STEP
students, including résumé‐writing workshops, etiquette dinners, and mock interviews.
Community college transfer students – particularly those who are first‐generation and/or
nontraditional – may experience cultural dissonance at a selective four‐year college or university.
Campuses engaged in various strategies to promote social integration, including using a “cohort
model,” facilitating post‐admission activities, enhancing the availability of personal support, and
providing financial support.
Many campuses used a “cohort model,” in which the CCTI students are identified as a group and
participate in activities together. (On some campuses cohort activities began before enrollment.) A
cohort model facilitates ongoing communication with and support for community college transfer
students. Cohorts can be the source of friendships and room‐ or house‐mates. Bonds formed
through cohort activities, such as monthly meetings, speakers’ series, and recreational activities,
can promote identity formation and generate a sense of community. Cohorts can function as
leadership testing grounds to prepare CCTI students for campus‐wide leadership roles. The cohort
model can also foster identification with the culture of the institution. For example, several CCTI
students credited UNC‐CH’s C‐STEP with providing entrée into the institutional culture, known as
“the Carolina Way.” Students on other campuses made similar reports.
Examples of CCTI cohort activities:
- UNC‐CH C‐STEP students attended monthly dinners to share experiences, socialize, and
often listen to speakers on timely issues, such as studying for exams or career planning.
Students assumed part of the responsibility for leading the program; in 2009, for example,
they organized a food drive to benefit a local food bank.
- Bucknell created a cohort during the summer program and organized cohort‐based
activities during the academic year.
- Mount Holyoke and the Frances Perkins Program fostered the development of a cohort of
students through organizing group activities and providing services.
- USC SCholars met regularly, shared meals, and had dedicated space on campus, including an
office for the program director, workstations for student staff, a computer lab, and a lounge
where students, most of whom live off campus, can study or relax.
- Cornell’s Pathway to Success students met regularly, started a Facebook page, and referred
to themselves as “Pathies.”
- Initially, Amherst’s CCTI program was seen in terms of an elite liberal arts college culture
emphasizing points of connection rather than differences among students. By 2010,
however, the program had more of a cohort model, with ongoing post‐admission activities,
paid peer mentors who are CCTI students currently enrolled on campus, and an
institutionally funded point person on campus.
All campuses had some post‐admission activities for CCTI students. Examples of these activities
- At U‐M, various campus organizations established programs for CCTI students and others
with similar backgrounds. The Center for the Education of Women (whose services are for
men and women) presented “Focus on Student Parents: Juggling Academic and Family
Demands.” The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts created a new student group,
First Generation College Students, organized by a Sociology graduate student.
- At UC Berkeley, the Transfer Re‐Entry and Student Parent Center provides programs and
services that support the academic and personal success of a diverse population of transfer,
re‐entry, and student parents. The center helps students become aware of and gain access
to campus resources and enrichment opportunities, and promotes campus and community
engagement and leadership development. It plays a key role in outreach to and recruitment
of students through participation in programs and events at Bay Area community colleges.
While any support for community college transfer students should be based in sensitivity to their
backgrounds and experiences, such sensitivity is especially important at the level of personal
support. “Trusted agents” at four‐year institutions who are aware of students’ personal
circumstances, such as family responsibilities, job expectations, or even homelessness, can develop
personal connections that bolster students’ confidence and help them develop the skills they need
in order to succeed. Assigning faculty or staff with similar life experience, or at the very least with
an understanding of first‐generation, low‐income, nontraditional students, facilitates trusting
relationships and candid exchanges.
Community college transfer students, needing to quickly understand the workings of the four‐year
campus, require assistance on where to go for answers to both small and large questions. CCTI
program coordinators or directors have functioned as information clearinghouses that connect
students to institutional resources, key offices, and individuals who can provide needed
information. They have also served as troubleshooters and problem solvers. Another strategy
utilized on all CCTI campuses was peer support. In addition to the informal peer support available
on all CCTI campuses, many campuses also organized more formal peer mentor programs.
Students who have “been there” have a level of credibility that no campus representative can match,
and have served as role models to new CCTI students. Peer mentors benefit too from new skills, new information about campus that they can use for themselves, and the gratification derived from
giving back. Following are examples:
- A paid C‐STEP peer mentoring program, part of the existing UNC‐CH peer mentoring
program, addresses issues ranging from parking and scheduling classes to family and other
- At U‐M, peer mentoring is available within several colleges and through the Center for the
Education of Women.
- Mount Holyoke and the Transfer Re‐Entry and Student Parent Center at UC Berkeley
provided paid, trained, and supervised peer mentors.
- At Bucknell, peer support is available through the organized cohort model, and its summer
program employs CCTI students to work with the participating community college students.
Incoming CCTI students who completed both baseline and end‐of‐year surveys at first expected that
paying for tuition, books, and other supplies would be challenging, but found it less of a challenge
by the end of the year. A number of responsive strategies may have helped to alleviate this
challenge: targeted financial support based on income, “nontraditional” support like commuting
expenses, expenses related to off‐campus residences, and child care; education on financial literacy;
and information on institutional policies regarding emergency funding for students with special
circumstances. For example:
- Financial Aid staff at UNC‐CH advised CCTI students of the appeals process for obtaining
funds to cover special costs, such as child care, that are not covered by the usual financial
aid package. In addition, they provided workshops on budgeting.
- Mount Holyoke had an emergency fund for certain types of student needs. Because of the
close connections between staff and CCTI students, the staff knew when students needed
information about the fund.
Creative financial support can ease financial burdens while furthering academic aims.
- Some institutions earmarked research assistantships for low‐income community college
- Cornell provided financial assistance for enrolling students who pursue an unpaid
internship, as well as for support for child care.
- USC provided funding to help defray costs associated with academic pursuits such as
memberships and conference registrations.
- Bucknell worked with a local health insurer to purchase an 8‐week policy for some students
in the summer program
- Amherst utilized special funds to pay for graduate school fees and travel to interviews for
community college transfer students.
Other types of awareness and support can help community college transfer students to succeed.
For example, those who have been participating in a world of adult responsibilities may not be very
interested in dormitory living. Some may prefer housing options that are quiet and removed from
campus activity centers. Students who already know each other through having attended a
partnering community college may prefer to live in rooms or even suites in the same residence hall.
Students who are married or have children or other dependents should have priority access to
married student housing.
Using Data to Sustain Success
All eight CCTI campuses used data to both improve and sustain their programs. Ongoing data
collection helped them to identify needs and opportunities for program improvements, provided
evidence of student success, and helped them to publicize powerful stories of student
transformation to a wider audience.
The CCTI campuses made many program changes based on quantitative data, experience, and
student feedback. Campuses used student record data, surveys, focus groups, and other methods of
soliciting feedback from students, administrators, and faculty. Following are examples of how data
were used to improve campus programs:
- Many campuses changed recruitment methods after learning more about how to identify
the best student‐institution matches.
- Most campuses made student orientations both more useful and developmentally
appropriate. For example, UNC‐CH revised its orientation program to address student
feedback and concerns about how to prepare for university‐level work: they partnered, for
a day, community college C‐STEP students and C‐STEP students enrolled at UNC. Several
campuses lengthened their orientations in response to student feedback.
- Some campuses changed the timing of acceptance letters, financial aid offers, and credit
transfer determinations to enable students to make better‐informed decisions. The
Amherst and USC examples concerning admissions timing were cited in Chapter 3.
- Most campuses changed advising systems to improve access and student‐advisor “fit.”
- Many campuses changed categories in the application review process to better consider a
broad array of life experiences (e.g., military service, providing care for one’s parents).
- Many campuses explored ways to ease the students’ transition to the four‐year. Bucknell
staff met with CCTI students to learn about issues they encountered in the transition; assess
their familiarity with and use of campus resources; and assess their engagement in campus
life. They discussed the findings with community college partners, developed new
transition strategies, and created materials to assist students in mapping their activities at
Bucknell, including internships, study abroad, and graduate school. They also changed
activities and programming for CCTI students, including developing common space for
them, installing lockers for commuter students, and finding or creating housing alternatives.
The strategy for using data to promote sustainability and development amounted to telling the
story, especially to audiences whose buy‐in could make a difference, such as trustees, legislators,
and philanthropists. As one administrator said, “You have to be able to say what you’re doing. You
need data to do this.” Among the most common ways of telling the story were the following:
- Articles in higher education and other publications and in institutional annual reports.
- Fundraising and marketing materials focusing on success stories, what the program means
to the institution, and what it means to students. For example, Cornell’s “Success Stories”
brochure, highlighting the personal stories and academic success of community college
transfer students and distributed to faculty, trustees, and administrators, resulted in
increased interest in the program from faculty, including offers to become CCTI Program
volunteers. U‐M uploaded current community college transfer student profiles to their
community college web portal and received positive feedback.
- Tracking and reporting on how community college transfer students are doing, including
compared to first‐years (campuses already tracked and reported on first‐years).
- CCTI students, administrators, and faculty presenting to boards, trustees, and state
Academic integration and social integration were critical to the CCTI students’ success. Key campus
strategies to promote academic integration included changing perceptions of academic support
centers, seminars and other activities for newly admitted and newly enrolled students, early
warning systems, research opportunities with faculty, strengthened and targeted advising, and
support for post‐graduation planning. Key campus strategies to promote social integration
included cohort models, post‐admission activities, enhancing the availability of personal support,
and providing financial support. Finally, all CCTI campuses used data to make program
improvements that improved pre‐enrollment activities, eased the students’ transition to the four‐
year, and supported the students once enrolled. Data also bolstered campus efforts to publicize the
program’s success, increasing campus‐wide buy‐in and leading to financial and other support.
The CCTI turned out to be a transformative initiative, most notably for the students involved, who
changed not only their perceptions of themselves as students but also their outlook on their futures.
The CCTI also transformed the four‐ and two‐year campuses that took part. Without lowering
standards, the four‐year institutions broke through institutional silos, formed new partnerships
with community colleges, and expanded services and supports for students who quickly proved to
be assets to their campus communities.
The evaluation team found that:
- The CCTI students increased campus diversity, made intellectual contributions to the
campuses and classrooms, became deeply engaged on campus, and inspired others (including
some who had not supported the initiative at the start).
- The CCTI has improved collaboration and communication among schools, departments, and
administrative offices on the campuses.
- The CCTI benefited students. Many had not envisioned themselves even finishing community
college, let alone succeeding at an elite four‐year institution and (for many) planning to
attend graduate school.
- Institutional readiness and institutional buy‐in at the outset of the CCTI were critical to
program effectiveness and sustainability.
- Meaningful partnerships with community colleges made recruiting and preparing the right
- Community colleges often attributed improvements in their transfer culture and the quality
of their academic offerings to the CCTI.
- Promoting the CCTI students’ academic and social integration while using data to improve
and sustain programs were important factors in supporting student success at the four‐year
- The pre‐enrollment, transitional, and post‐enrollment practices that emerged during the
initiative to promote success for nontraditional, low‐income, and/or first‐generation students
contribute to the field.
The campuses’ strategies in all these areas should help other institutions undertaking similar
The preceding chapters have noted a variety of promising practices across the CCTI campuses.
Table 6.1 summarizes the most important and frequent of these practices, by campus. (Notes at the
end of the table briefly describe the practices.)
- Summer programs = Organized, substantial programs including courses and/or research opportunities with faculty
- Cohort model = CCTI students admitted as identifiable group and participate in activities together
- Post‐admission programming = social and informational activities for CCTI students, including CCTI student
- Peer mentors = Students who are trained, supervised, and usually paid to mentor community college students
and/or students who have already transferred
- Customized orientation = separate or supplemental orientation for CCTI students addressing challenges and
information needs common to low‐ to moderate‐income (and often first‐generation) students transferring from
- Assistance with applications = Specific assistance with admissions and financial aid applications for prospective
community college transfer students (beyond help usually offered by admissions and financial aid offices)
- Pre‐admission advising = help with deciding which community college courses are best aligned with transfer goals
* Denotes that some elements of and/or a variation on the practice were present at the site.
Note: Some practices have considerable overlap, such as the cohort model and post‐admission activities.
The brief summation of the lessons learned from the CCTI is this:
- Be ready: prepare the way for introducing a transfer initiative.
- Develop both broad and high‐level buy‐in.
- Develop strong partnerships with community colleges.
- Look for the “right” students, take steps to help them get prepared for transfer to the four‐
year, help them through the process, and support them during and after the transition year.
In the final round of interviews we conducted with senior administrators at the four‐year
campuses, we asked, “Why do this?” With ample numbers of freshmen applicants, this sector of
higher education institutions does not need to recruit community college transfer students,
especially students with high financial need. The evaluation team saw that this initiative forced
four‐year institutions to leave their comfort zones – learning about community colleges, meeting
the needs of nontraditional students, and stretching boundaries between offices of student affairs,
academic affairs, and admissions. The first answer to our question was always, “the students.”
Over and over we heard about the CCTI students’ contributions to every facet of campus life. From
enlivening and adding insight to classrooms, to mentoring and being role models for other students,
to becoming leaders, the CCTI students became central to the identity and mission of the eight
The second response to this question was that there is no reason for highly selective institutions
not to. Each institution argues that this type of initiative is eminently doable and worth pursuing
because of the benefits it brings to campuses. Many noted that opening doors to these students is
simply the right thing to do and is consistent with institutional missions and commitments to
diversity. While CCTI students may have required a variation in the way things got done, the
practices that were established through the initiative have often benefited the larger student body
as well. Much of what occurred in the very early stages of this project was busting the myths that
all community college students are ill prepared for a residential campus experience, that they will
not be able to do the work, and that far too many resources will be required to support too few
students. The initial cohorts of CCTI students quickly dispelled these myths, due to their own
actions and assets as well as the thoughtful upfront partnership work to build sustainable
structures that promoted recruiting the right students, problem solving, and resource sharing.
Nationally, the time is right to engage in this type of initiative. The college enrollment gap
for underrepresented students in higher education is a national concern. Educators, policy
makers, private foundations, and other intermediary organizations have long called for
improving college access, especially for first generation and low‐ to moderate‐income
students. In recent years, several high‐profile national initiatives led by these same
organizations have focused new attention and resources on addressing the college
enrollment gap. The focus of these initiatives has expanded from college access to include
college success, and further expanded to highlight the role of community colleges in
preparing students for transfer to four‐year institutions.
In one initiative, leaders from over 100 community colleges endorsed Achieving the Dream, a
multiyear initiative that is aimed at helping more community college students, especially students
of color and low‐income students, to succeed, including through successful transfer to a four‐year
institution. Meanwhile, education groups such as the National Association of System Heads (NASH),
along with 24 state public higher education systems, formed the Access to Success Initiative (A2S)
with the goals of increasing the number of college graduates in their states and ensuring that the
graduates are more broadly representative of their states’ high school graduates. And policy
groups such as the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) are engaging in research to
“increase access and success in postsecondary education around the world.”
Behind much of this work has been the support of private foundations like the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, who have already made college enrollment a priority
by pledging billions to support student success, again including transfer from community colleges
to four‐year institutions. These initiatives have publicly made the case for access to college as
essential for the health of our nation and supported community college student transfers as a way
to engage universities in that work.
President Obama too has repeatedly highlighted the importance of community colleges and made
increasing college enrollment a focus of his administration, as noted in a July 2009 speech:
“Time and again, when we have placed our bet for the future on education, we have
prospered as a result. That is why, at the start of my administration, I set a goal for
America: by 2020, this nation will once again have the highest proportion of college
graduates in the world.”
1 This figure only includes those who enrolled in the eight institutions; it does not include the much higher number of community college students receiving pre-enrollment outreach and support.
2 Dowd, A., Bensimon, E., Gabbard, G., Singleton, S., Macias, E., Dee, J., Melguizo, T., Cheslock, J. Giles, D. (2006). Transfer Access to Elite Colleges and Universities in the United States: Threading the Needle of the American Dream. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. See https://www.jkcf.org/grants/community-college-transfer/research/transfer-access-to-elitecolleges-and-universities-in-the-united-states-threading-the-needle-of-the/
3 The term “native students” refers to those who enrolled in the institution as freshmen.
4 Students in C‐STEP were guaranteed admission to UNC‐CH upon completion of program requirements.
5 “Different methods have different strengths and weaknesses. If they converge (agree) then we can be reasonably confident that we are getting the true picture” (Gillham, 2000).
6 CCTI students often followed a different path to college than those who entered the four‐year institutions as freshmen. Of those completing baseline surveys, 57% had worked between high school and community college, while 42% had gone directly to community college.
7 The term “native students” refers to those who enrolled in the institution as freshmen.
8 Mount Holyoke faculty participated in the survey, but the institution was excluded from the analysis because of its history of admitting nontraditional students through the highly visible, 30‐year‐old Frances Perkins program, which annually enrolls about 140 nontraditional students. Bucknell and Amherst, each of which had fairly homogeneous student bodies at the start of the CCTI, as well as experience with unsuccessful attempts at special programs for community college transfer students, were more representative of other highly selective institutions for which the idea of admitting transfer students from community colleges would be new.
9 Evaluators requested individual level data (without student identification numbers or other identifying information) for CCTI transfer students and other students who transferred at the same time, and summary data (mean, median, and standard deviation) for “native” students.
10 “Different methods have different strengths and weaknesses. If they converge (agree) then we can be reasonably confident that we are getting the true picture” (Gillham, 2000).
11 On average, respondents had been at their institutions for approximately 16 years (25% were at the institution 5 years or fewer, and 15% 25 years or more). Two‐thirds were tenured.
12 Based on the institutions’ and the researchers’ experience, it was decided not to pursue individual matching. The cost would have been prohibitive and faculty highly unlikely to respond to a survey without a guarantee of anonymity.
13 Mean pre‐ and post‐survey results
14 Retrieved from http://sao.cornell.edu/SO/org/07‐08/1264 December 2010.
15 Some analyses use weighting, which helps compensate for different sample sizes from different institutions, and within the CCTI and “other transfer” groups, in order to make more accurate comparisons. Weights are calculated using the mean number of cases by institution in order to create a representative sample by institution.
16 While the number of CCTI students was 1,098, not all campuses provided a full set of demographic and other data for every CCTI student. This table reflects that minor discrepancy. Overall demographic information was provided for 1,096 students; gender information was provided for 1,094.
17 Sixty‐three percent of CCTI respondents reported no current family obligations, while 11% spent ten hours or more per week on family obligations (23% of this group spent up to ten hours per week on such obligations).
18 Detailed tables are available in Appendix C.
19 The end‐of‐year responses are from the students’ final semester.
20 Time was also a factor: the longer respondents were on campus, the better they felt they fit in.
21 Students in C‐STEP were guaranteed admission to UNC‐CH upon completion of program requirements.
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A. CCTI program profiles by campus
B. Survey instruments ‐ baseline
C. Student survey responses – matched pre post frequencies
D. Faculty surveys responses summary
E. List of variables (student academic and financial record data)
F. Interview protocols
a. Students at the community college
b. Students at the four‐year institution
c. Faculty and staff
Faculty Baseline Survey
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Community College Transfer Initiative
Faculty Survey on Undergraduates
Researchers from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University are
evaluating the community college transfer initiative on your campus. In order to ascertain its
effectiveness, we are surveying faculty. We ask that you fill out the survey below – it should take no more
than 15 minutes to complete, and is anonymous. We will conduct a follow-up survey in 2010. Please
note that your participation is voluntary. If you want more information about this evaluation, please feel
free to contact Dr. Cathy Burack at Brandeis University, MA – firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 343-4705
extension 63762. If you wish to fill out a web-based version of this survey, go to:
Student-Matched Survey Results
To understand the degree of faculty knowledge of and involvement with transfer students
on campus, the survey asked about committee work, advising, and teaching that might be
related to CCTI students.
- The majority of respondents reported having “minimal to no involvement” with
committees that might address transfer students, including admissions committees
or committees that make enrollment decisions (80%), committees that deal with
academic issues concerning transfer students (72%), and committees that deal with
social or co‐curricular issues (76%).
- Respondents served as advisors to an average of 17 students. Less than 10% of
faculty indicated “a great deal” of experience advising community college transfers,
low‐income students, low‐income community college students, and nontraditional
age students. Among faculty with “some” experience, 22% on the pre‐ and 32% on
the post noted that they advised community college transfer students; 16% on the
pre‐ and 27% on the post noted they advised low‐income community college
students; and 46% across the pre‐ and post said they advised low‐income students.
The results are consistent with the increased numbers and visibility of these
students at both campuses, and the centrality of faculty advising to the culture of
- Faculty also answered questions about teaching community college transfer
students, low‐income students, low‐income community college students, and
nontraditional age students. Among those with “some” experience, the largest pre‐
post gain was in teaching community college students (pre‐ 33%, post 56%) and
low‐income community college students (pre‐ 23%, post 46%). There was little
change for those reporting “some” experience teaching low‐income students, with a
mean response of 58%. Responses varied with regard to teaching nontraditional
age students. Fewer Amherst faculty respondents reported “some” at the post
(10%) than at the pre (19%). At Bucknell, 18% reported “some” at the pre‐ and
23% at the post. This variability aligns with institutional programs: Bucknell’s
implementation of the CCTI included students of nontraditional age, while
Amherst’s CCTI students were generally closer to traditional age.
Faculty Support for Transfer Policies and Programs
To capture the degree of change in faculty attitudes about the role of transfer admissions
on their campuses that can be associated with the CCTI, faculty were asked to indicate their
agreement with a series of statements presented in Table D.1. The findings suggest an
increase in faculty support for transfer strategies between the pre‐ and post‐surveys, the
key findings of interest to the evaluation team. The levels of agreement with other
statements were mixed. There was a high and virtually unchanged level of agreement with
the notion of promoting access to higher education, but also with the concern that transfer
programs take resources away from four‐year students. Levels of concern about transfer
programs detracting from selectivity and transfer students being unable to reap the benefit
of a four‐year experience increased slightly.
Faculty Views on Institutional Support for Students
The survey included several items to assess faculty views about their institution’s
performance relative to student learning and needs. A majority said that their
college/university does an “excellent” job preparing students for graduate school and
achieving liberal learning outcomes. However, on both pre‐ and post‐surveys,22 far fewer
indicated that their institutions were “excellent” at serving students who need
social/personal support (19%), serving students who need academic support due to
learning disabilities or inadequate preparation (11%), or meeting the needs of
nontraditional age students (4%).
There was some variability in responses between the two campuses. Amherst respondents
showed the largest pre‐post survey gain in the first area: 17% on the pre‐ rated Amherst’s
performance serving students who need social/personal support as “excellent” while 34%
rated it as “excellent” on the post. Bucknell respondents showed pre‐post gains in the third
area: 0% rated Bucknell’s performance on meeting the needs of nontraditional students as
“excellent” and 17% rated it as “good” on the pre‐, while 5% rated it as “excellent” and 20%
rated it as “good” on the post. The findings are consistent with the CCTI’s development at
each institution. Both institutions developed new (and visible) student support structures
over the course of the CCTI: Amherst created and funded a staff position whose charge was
to support CCTI students, and Bucknell developed new policies and strategies for meeting
the needs of CCTI nontraditional age students.
Faculty Views on Student Preparation
Faculty were asked about their level of agreement with statements about student
preparation in general, and community college transfer student preparation in particular,
as well as about services these students might need and the implications for faculty
workloads and institutional resources. Findings are presented in Table D.2. Generally,
responses were consistent at pre‐ and post with the following exceptions about academic
and social support services:
On the pre‐survey, 55% of respondents either strongly or somewhat disagreed23
with the statement, “Community college transfer students require too many
academic support services in order to succeed at my institution,” and 66%
responded similarly on the post.
On the pre‐survey, 57% somewhat or strongly disagreed with “Community college
transfer students require too many social or co‐curricular support services in order
to succeed at my institution,” and 62% did so on the post.
On the pre‐survey, 68% of faculty respondents somewhat or strongly agreed with
the statement that, “Students who have ability but need some remedial help should
be welcome at our institution,” and 76% did so on the post.
The greatest institutional variation occurred on the item “The addition of more community
college students at our institution will increase the faculty workload.” At Bucknell, 24%
somewhat or strongly agreed with this on the pre‐ and 23% on the post, indicating little
change. At Amherst, 31% indicated somewhat or strong agreement on the pre‐ and 87%
on the post about faculty workload concerns. Given the other Amherst faculty responses
indicating increasingly positive attitudes about community college transfer students, this
increase may reflect a perception, rather than a concern serious enough to merit lessening
efforts to enroll community college transfer students.24
A substantial minority of faculty selected “don’t know” on many items in this area. The fact
that arts, humanities, and social sciences faculty would not necessarily be expected to know
whether students are adequately prepared in mathematics and quantitative reasoning
might explain the 29% responding “don’t know.” The reason for 20‐29% reporting “don’t
know” concerning transfer students’ skill levels and need for support services is less clear.
It may be related to lack of knowledge about which students are transfer students (from
community colleges or otherwise), or it may be that faculty are unwilling to make global
statements about the overall preparation of transfer students when their experience with
many such students is limited to a class or two.