Many Texas students begin their higher education experience at a local community college, then transfer to a four-year university to earn their bachelor’s degree.
It’s a good plan, unless credits don’t transfer and classes taken to save cash end up a waste of both time and money.
When that happens, students feel frustrated — and many fail to complete their degree program.
At Tarleton State University, we’re working with Tarrant County College and others to create clear “transfer pathways” so students can fulfill their educational dreams while saving dollars and class hours.
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While there’s no easy solution, there are things that can be done to improve — maybe even fix — the transfer process and help our state meet its ever-growing demand for a professional workforce.
Things like creating program-specific agreements, tailoring student advising, making better use of common course numbering and committing to the overall success of transfer students.
We’re incorporating these strategies at Tarleton, and we’re seeing increased student participation and achievement.
Our number of fall 2016 transfer students — from 169 different Texas colleges and universities — is up 30 percent from just five years ago.
Plus, our four-year graduation rate for transfer students — 70 percent — exceeds the state average by 10 points, placing us among the very best for Texas public universities.
There are good reasons for our success.
In addition to TCC, we work closely with McLennan Community College and Collin, Hill, Navarro and Weatherford colleges — schools we refer to as our “Top Academic Partners” — to create specific, major-related transfer agreements or pathways that provide clear guidance on what general education courses are needed to complete particular bachelor’s degrees.
For example, we ensure that students enrolled in TCC’s nursing program who want to earn a bachelor’s in nursing at Tarleton receive a clear and precise map to complete the required 120 hours of credit.
There are pathways for business, education, criminal justice and psychology, too, and we continue to collaborate with more than a dozen other community colleges to enhance our current articulation agreements and create program-specific pathways.
We’re also a huge proponent of dual admission, joint advising and reverse transfer.
With dual admission, students take upper-level courses at one of our outreach centers — like Tarleton-Fort Worth on Camp Bowie Boulevard — while finishing their core curriculum at a community college. A minimum of 30 credit hours must be completed to participate.
Reverse transfers, on the other hand, allow students to complete their associate degree after enrolling at Tarleton.
Dual admission and reverse transfer students enjoy shared library resources between Tarleton and TCC, and a financial aid consortium ensures a seamless partnership.
Tarleton’s academic advisers work with potential transfer students long before they arrive at our Stephenville campus or outreach centers, collaborating with community college counselors to tailor a smooth, transparent transition between schools.
In addition, our commitment to the Texas Common Course Numbering System — a program that encourages all state higher education institutions to label equivalent classes with the same prefix and number — is taking the guesswork out of which credits will transfer from community colleges.
Currently, only one other Texas public university has more courses that mirror TCCNS classifications than we do.
We’re committed to TCCNS, and we’re going the extra mile to self-monitor course numbers from all transfer transcripts, adding them to our own system for a quick match-up if they meet core requirements.
We constantly look for ways to streamline enrollment processes for new transfer students.
We’re also exploring the benefits of online “what-if” tools for credit articulation and degree applicability, and we’re looking at ways to decrease the time from application to admission and increase financial aid.
Beginning the college process at a community college can be a cost-saving step toward a bachelor’s degree and, at Tarleton, we’re working to make sure it’s also an effective step.
F. Dominic Dottavio, Ph.D., is the 15th president of Tarleton State University.