The Teagle Foundation and Arthur Vining Davis Foundations are jointly sponsoring Transfer Pathways to the Liberal Arts to bring the lifelong benefits of a liberal arts education to students who historically have been excluded from higher education—including low-income students, first-generation students, students of color, and immigrant students—who now constitute the “new majority” of undergraduates and depend on community college as their gateway to higher education.
The initiative aims to support building comprehensive curricular frameworks between community colleges and independent colleges and ensure alignment in learning objectives between lower and upper division coursework; transferability and applicability of credits; and timely completion of the baccalaureate in the liberal arts. We give priority to projects that involve multiple four-year independent colleges coming together with community college partners to develop statewide, regional, or consortial approaches to promote transfer in the liberal arts. Proposals for bilateral agreements between pairs of institutions will not be considered.
Transfer has academic, cultural, and financial dimensions. The academic dimension is paramount because it influences the other two dimensions. Nearly half of all transfer students lose more than ten percent of earned credits in the transition. This is especially discouraging for students who cannot afford to extend their time in college in order to earn additional credits for graduation. Such students often discover belatedly that credits that have been technically accepted by their new institution toward the overall graduation requirements in the form of electives may not be counted toward requirements within the student’s desired degree program. Such loss of credits prolongs time to degree, which can have a major impact on students’ financial aid eligibility and can make the cost of completing the baccalaureate appear financially daunting. Lack of clarity around how credits transfer also adversely influences the quality of academic advising and blunts the impact of other cultural practices that institutions might adopt to become more transfer-friendly, such as establishing centers on campus dedicated to transfer students. This is especially true for independent colleges, which historically have had little experience with recruiting community college transfer students and have designed their curriculum on the assumption that students will be on campus for four years.
This grant program is focused on addressing obstacles students face in the academic dimension of transfer and ensuring their coursework transfers and applies towards baccalaureate degree program requirements. These issues are directly within the control of faculty and influence the cultural and financial dimensions of transfer. Focusing on the academic dimension has a useful precedent in the public sector, on which independent colleges can base their own efforts by looking to curricular mechanisms to promote transfer to four-year public institutions that have been enacted as a matter of state policy. This work in the public sector provides a model for ensuring alignment in learning outcomes between lower- and upper-division coursework. Independent sector institutions would benefit from statewide, regional, or consortial frameworks to streamline academic requirements for transfer in order to provide a competitive alternative to public four-year institutions and raise their visibility as a transfer destination in the eyes of community college students.