There is a commonly held belief that students who begin at a community college do not graduate at two-year or four-year institutions. Decades of research on community college is mixed, but there are some indicators of success. Data collected by the National Student Clearinghouse, a source that collects and verifies college data, shows that full-time community college students, including those who transferred to other institutions, graduated at a rate of 55% within 6 years (American Association of Community Colleges, 2017).
Further, selecting a community college is a financial decision for students and families. With the rising cost of college and the student debt crisis, starting at a community college could be a wise choice in the long run. In-state tuition at community colleges is significantly more affordable for many students and families than tuition at a public four-year institution. Further, commuting instead of living on campus can save an average of $9000 per academic year for students (Monaghan & Attewell, 2014).
Even with the lower cost, there is still a stigma around continuing education at a community college. Often, students have a desire to attend a four-year institution and the thought of having an experience that is different from their peers is hard for them to fathom. For counselors seeking to advise students on community college, a strong angle to approach the conversation is through transfer pathways. Articulation agreements and transfer programs with four-year institutions are reasons that students may consider beginning their journey at a community college. Admissibility as a high school senior may be more difficult than as a transfer student, and explaining this to students has helped in many of my conversations.
Below, please find a few programs in the DC Metro Area where students are taking advantage of transfer programs and pathways.
- The Maryland Transfer Advantage Program allow students to transfer to UMD with guaranteed admission after their first year at a Maryland community college. Students in MTAP are also able to take courses on UMD’s campus for a discounted rate. Unlike many transfer agreements, students are not required to complete their associate’s degree before transferring to UMD through this special program.
The NOVA Advance Program is a partnership between George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College. When students at NOVA complete the program requirements, they are guaranteed admission into GMU. This program is committed to more than just admission, but the success of transfer students on campus, so students are matched with advisors and success coaches who work with them throughout their tenure.