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Community Colleges: The Open Door to the Bachelor’s Degree

A new research report from the Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center entitled: “The Transfer Playbook: Essential Practices for Two and Four Year Colleges,” outlines the critical role that community colleges play in assisting students achieve a four-year degree. While community colleges, such as our own Glen Oaks, prepares students for the workforce i.e.; nurses, welders, medical assistants, etc., “the fact is that most students entering community college aim to earn a bachelor’s degree thus, the two-to-four year transfer process, when it functions well, represents a critical means for upward mobility across the United States.”

In spite of this great promise, the two-to-four year transfer process does not work well in many cases. A 2011 study in New York State reported that only 100,000 of 720,000 students who entered NY community colleges in the Fall, 2007, earned a bachelor’s degree within six years. Even for those students who transfer, there can be lost credit along with the lack of completion of their associate degree. In spite of the issues associated with the community college transfer process, the demographics, economics, and political factors are bringing community colleges and their four-year public and private partners together to increase transfer success.

Here in Michigan, the political powers desire a more seamless and effective community college to public university transfer model. In states where there are oversight bodies, this pressure takes the form of top down mandates but we have no such body in Michigan. While there have been many initiatives here to make the transfer process more efficient, they depend on agreements between individual institutions for the most part. There is the Michigan Transfer Agreement that outlines the basic general education requirements for degrees but it only deals with the few most general transfer subjects.

As Glen Oaks strives to serve transfer students most effectively, we are working with several four-year partners. These collaborations include hosting three private four-year institutions on campus; Trine University, Spring Arbor University and Goshen College. These arrangements allow Glen Oaks students to complete bachelor’s degrees totally on our campus. In all these relationships, the receiving institutions work with the students well before they are ready to transfer, ensuring that there will be minimal loss of credit and smooth transition. In addition to these on campus partnerships, Glen Oaks works closely with several other public and private universities including Michigan State University, Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, Franklin University and more. In most cases, there are “Guided Pathways” that provide for the students the full curriculum requirements beginning with Glen Oaks (potentially as dual enrolled or Early/Middle College high school students) through the receiving four-year institution in the program of choice.

Today at Glen Oaks, we have hundreds of students planning to complete bachelor’s degrees and with the economic benefits, location and student-centered approach in all we do, these students have a leg up on completing their educational goals in the most affordable and direct way possible. Glen Oaks exists only to serve our students and community and we are most pleased to provide the paths for students to achieve their educational goals.

–David H. Devier
Glen Oaks Community College President