University receives grant to ease transferring, recruit students

By Andy Kwalwaser

The University recently received nearly $900,000 in grant funds to overhaul the transfer process and address challenges facing students in transition from community colleges.

Funding for the Transfer Experience and Advising Mentors project will come from the Lumina Foundation, an education research institute in Indianapolis. The grant was approved in July and will last for three years.

“Many students start out in community colleges and want to transfer, but very few actually make that transition,” said Caroline Altman Smith, a Lumina program officer.

More than 1,000 students come to the University as transfer students, but administrators aim to increase that number.

“There are many highly qualified students who are electing to attend community college,” Vice Provost Ruth Watkins said, adding that the issues impeding transfer students’ success are not always academic.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

Deans and advisers conceived the TEAM project in conjunction with the provost to deal with new students’ adjustments to University life and curricula. The program will recruit peer mentors to help students arriving for the spring semester, but not all of its services are in place yet.

Melissa Ogden, junior in FAA, said she would have liked to have more access to mentors during her transition this year from a community college to the University.

“I think I got pretty lucky because I had advisers who knew what they were talking about, but I wish I had some more opportunities,” Ogden said. She previously attended John A. Logan Community College in Carterville.

TEAM found that there is room to improve the transfer process on community college campuses as well. In Illinois, 125,000 students attend two-year colleges, but 8,000 transfer to four-year schools, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education in 2003.

The University and Lumina attribute part of this shortcoming to racial and economic inequalities that are prevalent in other states’ college systems as well. Kevin Corcoran, Lumina communication director, said the success or failure of the TEAM project will be taken into account when developing similar programs with other universities.

“Typically when we fund proposals, we want to see if they can be used in other contexts,” Corcoran said.

In August, Lumina granted the University $699,000 and stated its intention to give an additional $200,000 in fall 2009. The contribution surpasses the University’s original request for $500,000.

Watkins said Lumina’s grant will pay for additional personnel to expand the TEAM project. The University will spend an additional $741,000, bringing the total cost to more than half a million dollars.

The University will file a report with Lumina each year of the grant, detailing progress and expenditures. In 2004, Lumina granted the University $200,000 to develop a program to ease the transition between high school and college.