Monday, February 09, 2015
Hidden in Plain Sight
That LA Times story was surreal. Their CCs didn't have transfer majors? Is it 1960 out there?
By the way, my retort is there are four kinds of colleges: those that are highly selective for admission but graduate everyone (like W), those that are sort of selective at both ends, those that are unselective at both ends, and CCs. CCs are unselective at admission and fairly selective at graduation in the transfer majors.
Our low graduation rate is a virtue, just like selective admission is a virtue. Some would like to destroy that feature, which would be a mistake IMHO.
1. Stop talking about lower cost. People don't want things that are cheap, they want a deal on a high quality thing. We shop at outlet malls to get a deal on an expensive brand – there is no Walmart outlet. So sell yourself as a high quality thing that just happens to be affordable. People love to think they are getting a deal. You already kind of do this but I would focus on it more.
2. Connect with the local high schools and give those students an amazing experience. Create a way for them to enter college ready to go – remind them how good their experience was and that you’re a legit option. Talk about your students who transferred into elite institutions and thrived because of the high quality work you do. Have a budget that shows that transfer from your school to an elite costs the same as 4-5 years at a 4-year school.
3. Address the real issue that many CC students have significant drops in their GPA when they transfer. On the order of a full grade point at my institution. Find out why this is happening and really prepare your students for their launch into the 4-year world. Reach out to the transfer institutions and find out what resources are available and then connect your students to them. Yes – this is very nanny state. But the students you train are faltering when they transfer and it leaves them and the institutions they transfer to with the (false) impression that you didn’t do a good job getting them ready.
4. Get groups of faculty from the CC and the transfer institution together to talk about what students need to know after transfer. Ask the transfer institution to bring data. Create a curriculum or a set of objectives that is coherent across the institutions. This is not a time to be artisanal. Do best by your students by prepping for what they need to know in the place they are going. (I know this is crazy talk but I think it would really help.)
5. Hire counselors that give students real advice about how best to transfer into a science major. Don’t waste their time with “just do GEs”. They arrive at my state university and still have to do 4 years because they didn’t take the right courses at the CC to be ready. They have to take Chemistry and Biology multiple times because they were put in the wrong series. They are left with the impression that your counselors don’t know what they are talking about – and they’re right.
6. Connect with local 4-year schools to give students the opportunity to do research. This is especially important for preprofessional students as this experience will be part of what they are judged on when they apply to their grad programs.
7. Internships, internships, internships. Leverage your connections to local businesses to get students real hands on experience if they don’t have a “real” job already. Try to get philanthropic support for paid internships. Don’t have your students waste their time working retail unless they really want to have that be their career forever. Connect them with real entry level jobs that teach them what they need to know about the jobs they aspire to.
And last but not least - the reason that no one wants to transfer to a CSU is because they require 17 GE classes. UCs which are more prestigous require only 6. For the money, the UC transfer is a much better deal and takes less time. Unless you are place bound, you to UC. Moreover, the numbers on transfer are skewed by the fact that for a couple of years many of the CSUs were taking no transfers at all. None! So that probably accounts at least in part for the recent increase in numbers.
We do several of the things you mention, and some of our best ambassadors in the high schools are our dual enrollment students. Many choose to finish their AA rather than go directly to the state university they planned all along to attend.
What we don't do, which is stupid, is meet with the faculty on the other side as you mention in #3. We have had meetings with HS teachers to help them align the choices they can make within Common Core to what we expect when they come in, and that has been great. I have learned a lot from individual faculty, but nothing systematic that can spread across our curriculum.