Heather Adams, associate director of transfer initiatives at the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, believes that when leaders and staff from postsecondary institutions work as a team and share responsibility for improving transfer outcomes at their institutions, transformational change can be achieved. She has good reason to believe this as she has seen it firsthand through the Aspen Institute’s work with the Transfer Student Success and Equity Intensive.
With a grant from Ascendium, the Aspen Institute partnered with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) to create a year-long learning initiative designed to support partnerships between community colleges and AASCU members. This intensive consisted of monthly meetings of presidents, provosts and other institutional leaders, as well as program faculty and student-facing staff, to advance practices and policies associated with improved, more equitable transfer student success. Two cohorts comprised of 31 institutional teams and over 500 individuals met over the past two years with a goal of accelerating transfer reform at their institutions.
Representatives from New Jersey City University (NJCU) and Hudson County Community College (HCCC) were one team that participated in the intensive. Both institutions are Minority Serving Institutions and proudly serve the diverse community of Hudson County and beyond. They also serve similar student populations, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college, work at least one job and commute to and from college.
Once they started meeting monthly and communicating with each other outside of the intensive meetings, they learned they have much more in common than just their demographics. They also both share a deep commitment to their students’ educational success.
“When it comes to transfer, everyone at both institutions needs to be on board. We have a shared responsibility to students to ensure they not only transfer but complete their degrees in a timely and cost-effective way,” said Lisa Dougherty, vice president for student affairs and enrollment at HCCC. “We look forward to advancing our partnership to the next level and turning into action our shared commitment to continuous improvement in the upward social and economic mobility of our students.”
For years, the institutions have successfully partnered on various projects, including dual admission, marketing initiatives and community and cultural events. Partnering on transfer made sense as the next step — the numbers showed that each year for the last five years, as many as 350 students transferred from HCCC to NJCU. Additionally, more HCCC students transfer to NJCU than any of HCCC’s other college and university partners. Students transfer from other institutions to NJCU as well, with close to 2,000 transfer students on the NJCU campus as any given time.
Both institutions recognize that they can do more to ensure students have a clear transfer pathway from HCCC to NJCU. Like other teams that participated in the intensive, NJCU and HCCC studied several transfer partnerships, agreeing to model their own transfer program after an existing, and successful, partnership they identified that provides a seamless student experience from the time a transfer student applies at HCCC through graduation from NJCU.
“The intensive allowed us to rebuild connections with our partners at HCCC,” said Jodi Bailey, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at NJCU. “We are becoming strategic in that partnership, which will create strong experiences for our students.”
As part of our efforts to streamline key learner transitions, Ascendium supports projects like these that aim to ease transitions between postsecondary education providers. This includes initiatives that improve transfer outcomes for learners from low-income backgrounds.