UI looks to ease transfer stress

By Michael Semaca

The research group has focused on ways to improve community college education in the past, and plans to use funds from this new grant to focus on multiple issues students who transfer from community college face.

“We’ll be looking at a number of institutional factors and student-level factors that influence transfer students’ likelihood of graduating with a baccalaureate degree,” said Dr. Jason Taylor, educational leadership professor at the University of Utah.

Taylor became involved with OCCRL while he was earning his doctorate at the University of Illinois. He worked with it directly for seven years before taking a faculty position at the University of Utah, but still conducts research with the University-based group.

He said the group plans to focus on partnerships between community colleges and four-year universities.

“We’re going to look at two and four-year partnerships in what we’re calling high performing partnerships, and we’re going to identify those partnerships and we’re going to collect some data on policies and practices there,” Taylor said. “(We’re going to) sort of do some field work and go to those institutions and try to understand what it is that makes them so successful.”

Taylor also said these partnerships can significantly improve the transition transfer students face.

Jeff Woltman, junior in Engineering, said he knows first-hand how difficult transferring from community college can be.

“It was rough, no doubt, because community college is kind of like high school continued on’ you’re not living on your own and you’re taking early college classes,” Woltman said.

“So when you finally come here and you’re a transfer student, you’re taking higher level classes and you’re just learning how to live on your own at the same time. The combination can be tough at first.”

Another area of research the grant will fund is a study on the causes of “transfer shock,” referring to the dip in grade-point average that some community college students experience upon transferring.

“The idea is that maybe four year institutions are more challenging, or maybe they’re not more challenging but students aren’t prepared to do work at the four-year institution,” Taylor said. “We’re going to look at this phenomenon, in particular how GPA changes over time once students transfer.”

Woltman said “transfer shock” affected him during his transition.

“I’m still learning how to adapt and recovering from last semester,” he said. “There was definitely a drop in GPA, definitely because of the difficulty level here. (It) went significantly up compared to community college.”

The grant will not exclusively be funding research for “traditional transfers.” Other forms of credit transfers, such as when students from a four-year institution take classes at a community college temporarily, will be examined as well.

“There’s a lot of mobility in higher education, so I think it’s important to think about transfer broadly and how students transfer,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he believes universities and states understand this concept, and design university systems that make it easy for students to transfer their credit.

He added that efforts to help transfer students adjust, such as implementing a mentor-mentee program, could be beneficial.

Justin Rienton, who attended Harper College with Woltman, said he believes the University can do better when it comes to offering tutoring to transfer students making the jump.

“It’s much more difficult to find help from a TA here,” Rienton said.

Woltman agreed, saying his old community college offered a one-on-one tutoring center where students could get immediate help.

“Being a much larger university, it’s not as easy,” Woltman said.

“If you’re trying to get help, it’s not at your own pace, it’s going to be at the pace of whatever the office hours are going at.”

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