Sunday, September 29, 2013
Early Transfers -- Dropouts or Successes?
In the meantime, I have to give Smith credit for forcing me to re-examine my own position, even if I remain unmoved. Wise and worldly readers, I’ll turn it over to you: should we consider students who transfer early dropouts or successes?
In my area, student have the choice of between five and ten community and technical colleges within a half an hour's drive. There are several universities available in the same area. "Churn" is the norm for my students. Most take classes at multiple colleges, building a schedule that suits them as they complete their prerequisites in preparation to transfer to programs in nursing and other allied health professions.
When they take and pass my classes, I am helping them reach their goals. It strikes me as ridiculous that someone would consider it a failure simply because these students did not complete a degree here.
Before answering your question, I will point out that financial aid policy distorts the data. Students who enter my CC with the stated intent of achieving a specific benchmark and transferring after one semester MUST say that they plan to earn an AA in order to qualify for aid. So they lie about their intent and we could only track them if we add a new field to our data base and can identify them at time of entry. We also get students who enter an AS program and lie about why they did so: the one they pick happens to require the same classes they need to fill the gap between a minimal AA and entry into a specific university program. They have no intent of completing it.
Further, I consider it highly unlikely that a suitable unit record system will be in place in time to GUIDE policy, since it takes 6 to 8 years to get good statistics on a several cohorts unless you want to rely on a few states that already have a system capable of analyzing longitudinal data, but even they probably don't track students out of state.
Now my answers:
1) Any student who transfers from a CC to a university should be considered a success for the CC, regardless of when they do it. If the university accepts them it is a success whether they graduate or not.
2) Even lateral transfers can be for a good reason. We see a lot of students who choose to finish their last 15 hours at a CC that is closer to where they plan to transfer during the next semester. (The odds of this increase with quality articulation agreements.) The criteria should be whether they transfer in "good standing" or not. Even so, we need to take shared responsibility for them. Shared, because I have seen plenty of examples where kids passed some class at another college when they knew full well that they didn't know the subject very well.
3) Any student that a university accepts as a transfer should count for or against them if they don't graduate. They are the ones that do or do not support them in that transition. That stat should be kept separately, but not ignored. After all, they get money from the State for transfers just like any other student, and some universities make up their loss of native students with transfers.
4) Success after transfer should be a separate category (like success of transfer students in 3), but it can be measured in different ways. Points above 2.0 after 24 hours of upper division classes might be suitable, for example. After that they should definitely be the university's responsibility if the students don't learn what they should have in their first year in a major.
Personal experience: My step-daughter (very bright) who did not do well (did so poorly she couldn't get admitted to a 4-year instate public institution) in HS because she didn't care, did one year at IVY Tech in Indiana (where she completed 30 hours with a 3.5 GPA, transferred to an in-state public, graduated in three more years with a 3.3 there. For IVY Tech, she's a drop-out. But we all consider her year there a success--she proved to herself, and to the 4-year school, that she could do college-level work.
1) not being able to complete the first two years of my degree at my CC. My CC did not offer organic chemistry or transferable sophomore level specialized classes (either in biochemistry or microbiology, I'd have happily taken either at the time)
2) just wanting to get the heck out of my parents house and be on my own.
Blaming the CC for the first one is understandable, though it seems to be asking a lot to offer O-chem when they regularly had 7 students in a section of gen chem II. I might have saved more money if I could have stayed at the CC longer, and the lack of O-chem annoyed me at the time since it was required for some of the AS degrees the CC offered (they did have an arrangement with another somewhat nearby CC to allow you to take it at in-district rates, but the commute was too much).
Blaming the CC for the second one, however, is like rating kid's shoe companies by "length of time before next pair of shoes is purchased" and comparing them to adult shoe companies. Sometimes you just grow out of something.