Encouraging news for those who want to see DU become a more attainable and inclusive school came this week when the university announced a new program and scholarship that will support students transferring from community college to DU, starting in fall 2018. The Pathways Scholarship program will award additional need-based scholarship dollars for transfer students from some local, two-year community colleges, and the Guided Pathways program will make it easier to assess credit transfers when changing schools. These new projects are an important part of making DU a more inclusive campus, and as the university keeps growing and planning, there must also be plans for how to best support community college transfer students once they are here and until they graduate.
The American Council on Education discusses how access to college is crucial, but so is completion—for community college students, completion can mean earning a degree, earning a certificate, transferring to a four-year institution etc. Plans to support students through graduation apply to community colleges but also to the four-year schools like DU who accept transfer students from these colleges. Currently, only 15 percent of community college students end up graduating from a four-year program in fewer than six years, and this can be even lower for minority students. Helping high school students in getting to college is key, but so is supporting those same students once there—this can be through financial aid as well as advising programs and input from students themselves.
DU this year opened a Transfer Living Community on campus, which is a good step in staying committed to students who have already made the switch. The university has also affirmed that it is working with the input of current transfers on how to better provide for this group. It is a good sign that the new scholarship program is included since financial aid can be one of the large barriers to enrollment in four-year college, and DU must ensure that these scholarships stay in place in the coming years. The financial aid package will help community college students be able to transfer to DU, and they must be able to rely on this scholarship for the duration of their enrollment.
Transferring to a four-year program does not need to be the end goal for all community college students—it is important that community colleges themselves continue to support students in graduating with a degree or certificate from those colleges—but it is a good option for many. DU is doing the right thing in making our university more accessible for those who wish to come here, but the same encouragement applies: just like community colleges, four-year colleges should ensure that students are completing programs, not just enrolling. There are enough barriers to college that exist already, and the more communities can do to lower these barriers, the healthier our higher education system will be.