A response to the increase in diversity in selective schools? Community college transfer
There is a simple solution to the diversity shortage in higher education: Prioritize community college transfers
More than a decade after graduating from high school, Dahlia Rodriguez began to fulfill a long-held dream: The single mother of two young children wanted to become a nurse practitioner. Just five years later, Rodriguez earned a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Smith College and offers to continue his nursing education at Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Emory University. She will begin her graduate studies in nursing at Emory University this fall.
The first step that took her from a job as a receptionist to a former student of a higher education institution: the community college. In Rodriguez’s case, an associate’s degree from Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn was a stepping stone for Smith, then Emory.
Dahlia Rodriguez is a remarkable person: brilliant, hardworking and incredibly motivated. And she is not alone. Community colleges across the country are full of promising students with interesting ideas and diverse backgrounds, not to mention the experience of overcoming adversity.
Like Smith, some selective institutions recognize the potential of community college transfers. Almost a third of the students in the University of California system, including its flagship Berkley campus, are transferred from community colleges. Brown University, as part of its strong transfer admissions program, offers a track for non-traditional students called the Resumed Undergraduate Program. These demonstrate a key principle adopted by the American Talent Initiative, a program of the Aspen Institute: selective institutions, which the ATI classifies as “high graduation rate” colleges and universities, have the power and responsibility to expand access to low-income students.
Despite these encouraging signs, however, many of America’s top colleges and universities clash widely when it comes to recognizing the power and potential of community college transfers. Indeed, community college transfers represent only 5% of the student population of the 100 most selective colleges in the United States, according to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
It is a huge oversight. Students transferring from community colleges are much more diverse than the student body as a whole. In fact, nearly half of first-generation students start at community colleges, so neglecting this population misses much of the potential pipeline of diverse talent. And they are doing at least as well academically as their peers, and often more. In a study aptly named “Persistence,” the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation looked at six-year graduation rates at “most competitive” and “very competitive” institutions, and transfer students to community colleges outperformed other categories. of students:
At the Kaplan Educational Foundation, where I lead the effort in working with community college students to help them move on to selective universities, our academics – including Dahlia Rodriguez – have an even stronger track record. Kaplan Educational Foundation fellows, who transfer to many of the country’s top four-year institutions, have a 93 percent graduation rate.
It’s time to let go of the old stories about the ability of community college students to handle the rigors of an elite education. To foster economic mobility and provide the diversity that selective colleges and universities, not to mention employers, are looking for, it is imperative that we do a better job of bringing community college students to competitive colleges and universities.
Harnessing the Potential of Community College Students
Here’s what selective institutions need to do to capitalize on the wealth of diverse and talented students in the community college system:
Level the playing field. The current admission system is heavily biased against transfers. Four-year-olds typically try to fill their incoming classes with high school students, then use transfers to fill any remaining gaps. As a result, high school applicants can compete for 2,000 places while community college transfers compete for over 50. Even Brown, with his strong transfer program, only admitted 4.3% of his transfer applicants. 2021, compared to 8.3% of its overall pool of candidates. It is not fair. If schools really want a diverse pool of applicants who can outperform their academic performance, they need to level the playing field.
Simplify the application process. Most four-year colleges have unique and complex applications and processes. These requirements effectively exclude applicants who do not have a lot of time, support, connections, and money. Applying to highly selective schools is a barrier in itself.
In economically disadvantaged circumstances, the most capable and responsible people naturally assume disproportionate responsibilities to their families. They provide financially, care for children and / or the elderly, and take on other demanding and time-consuming roles. As a result, Byzantine application processes effectively prohibit some of the best applicants from applying.
For example, institutions should work with the College Board to set the profile of the CSS, expand its fee waiver program, and revise the profile itself to reflect the realities of the lives of economically disadvantaged students. For these students, the CSS profile is a nightmare. For example, the form requires them to provide financial information about non-custodial parents. For students from low-income or single-parent households, it is highly likely that a non-custodial parent will not be reachable or will be unable or unwilling to disclose the personal or income information required by the profile. CSS. The expectation for these students to document the lack of support is unrealistic and disproportionately affects those students with the highest needs.
Make school affordable. How students access funding is critical. Colleges must fight the racism and classism that are entrenched in the current aid system.
Colleges need to tap into endowment funds to provide the kinds of assistance that allow less privileged students to thrive, including housing, counseling, and direct help. Given the huge endowments of elite institutions, they have a responsibility to create a more equitable system.
A need for new tools
There is a saying that when your only tool is a hammer everything looks like a nail. For years, exclusive institutions have tried to solve their diversity problem with their old tools. It is high time to try new ones, and community college transfers are both powerful and readily available. Making the necessary changes won’t be easy, but the results will be worth it