Why Transfer to a Four-Year College?

Posted October 08, 2007 by

When it was time to make college plans, Kristie Atkins wasn’t sure what to do. She had maintained a B average in high school, but the Portland, Oregon student hadn’t earned any scholarships, and the high cost of college was a worry.
So Kristie decided to attend Portland Community College. It was not an easy decision, since many of her friends were going on to well-known four-year colleges and universities. But once she enrolled, she was pleasantly surprised at how well things turned out. She enjoyed the classes, became involved in student government, and tried courses ranging from dance to journalism.

“There was a huge sense of community at my school and a focus toward the students as people instead of numbers to get through the system,” she says. “It was the safe choice for me that turned into a great choice.”
Kristie chalked up a 4.0 grade average and ended up transferring to Portland State University, where she is now working on a bachelor’s degree. “I was resistant at first, but I had a very positive experience,” she says. “I’m indebted to the community college for giving me the tools I needed to go on to a four-year school.”
According to the American Association of Community Colleges, 45%of all college students now begin their studies at two-year schools. Last year, these schools awarded approximately 550,000 associate’s (two-year) degrees.
At community, junior, and technical colleges across the U.S., students from all kinds of backgrounds, including students who could have been accepted at four-year schools from the outset, are choosing to start their college careers at a two-year school.
Sheri McKenzie, vice president of enrollment management at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, says that nearly 25% of students enrolling at her school transfer from two-year colleges.
“Many community colleges offer excellent preparation for students pursuing a four year degree at a relatively low cost,” she says. “Most transfer students enter CCA well-prepared to successfully complete the rigors of a visual arts college.”
For many students, a major plus is the chance to stand out as an individual before moving on to a larger, often more impersonal college or university environment.
“Classes at community colleges are much smaller than the equivalent introductory freshman and sophomore classes taught at most universities,” says D. Timothy Leinbach, a research associate with the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York. “And they are taught by seasoned instructors, many with Ph.D.s, who have chosen the community college because of the emphasis on undergraduate teaching. The quality of instruction at community colleges can be very high.”
Thinking ahead
If you already attend a two-year college or are considering enrolling in one, don’t overlook the advantages offered by transfer programs. You can pile up credits at a more affordable two-year college and then transfer to a four-year school, saving plenty of money in the process.
“If students are focused on their career choice, seek out advisement, and know where they want their bachelor’s degree from, it can be a seamless process from two- to four-year,” says Jessica Kozera, director of graduate and transfer admissions at Villa Julie College, a four-year school in Owings Mills, Maryland. “Many four-year institutions have articulation agreements with their local community colleges.”
If you transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree from a traditional four-year institution, your degree will be indistinguishable from those earned by students who started out there as freshmen. The only real difference will be that because of the lower tuition you paid during the first couple of years of your education, the total cost to you and your family will be much less. At the same time, the individualized attention can help prepare you for later success.
“A community college education may enable you to complete a significant part of your higher education and then transfer to an upper-level institution with little,if any, student loan debt,” says Barbara Elliott, dean of enrollment management at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “And the ability to develop a strong academic profile and excellent study skills will serve you well as you seek entrance into a bachelor’s degree program.”
Playing it safe
If you decide to take the transfer path, play it smart. Different four-year colleges have different requirements, and it’s important to choose courses carefully.
While one school might require U.S. history, for example, another might prefer completion of world history. The same goes in math, languages, and other disciplines.
This factor can be complicated at two-year colleges by the fact that some courses are designed for students who do not intend to transfer, and the academic standards may be lower. Credits for those courses will not be accepted by four-year schools, so you can waste your time taking the wrong courses.
The solution? Check out course catalogs or transfer guides, and consult academic counselors who can guide you from the outset of your studies.
“Get to know your transfer counselor, the campus-based professional who specializes in assisting students in transitioning to upper-level programs,” says Elliott. “A transfer counselor can help you identify which colleges and universities might be a good match, have programs that may be of interest to you, or have transfer agreements with your school.”
Once you have this information, move ahead with your plans. The articles in these pages can help you navigate the process. The transfer option might well be just right for you!

  TRANSFER Tidbits

> Students who spend two years at a public community college followed by two years at a four-year school save an average of $6,800 to $35,000 in tuition and fees, according to figures reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
> Many four-year colleges and universities encourage transfers and have developed special agreements with two-year colleges to make it easier for students to transfer.
> Some scholarships are reserved exclusively for students who transfer from two-year to four-year schools. For example, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (www.jackkentcookefoundation.org) awards scholarships of up to $30,000 to students in this category. And more than 600 colleges and universities offer transfer scholarships to members of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for students in two-year colleges.
> A number of studies have shown that students who transfer to four-year colleges from two-year schools do at least as well academically as those who started there as freshmen.
> If you earn a diploma from a state university or private college after transferring from a two-year school, it lists only the name of the degree-granting college. The end result is the same even though it costs you much less.

Article by Mark Rowh and courtesy of www.careersandcolleges.com

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