Driving Transfer Student Success Through Collaboration

In Student Success by Will Emerson

The 2017-2018 academic year has been marked by forward progress on student success at the state universities of Michigan; efforts spearheaded by the institutions in partnership with the Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU). Since receiving a student success capacity-building grant from the Kresge Foundation in early 2017, the association’s staff have been working with campus leaders in coordinating initiatives designed to help students persist at their universities, excel in their programs, and graduate on time. Much of this work has been conducted through a historic partnership aimed at enhancing student transfer involving MASU and the Michigan Community College Association (MCCA) through a multisector, cross institutional partnership known as the Transfer Steering Committee. Currently there are two primary projects the Transfer Steering Committee is spearheading: 1) the development of Guided Degree Pathways for easing transfer between institutions and 2) a major upgrade to the Michigan Transfer Network website.

Guided Degree Pathways

A primary near-term objective set forth by the Transfer Steering Committee is to create streamlined pathways for students in high-enrollment degree pathways in Michigan. Based on an analysis of program enrollment patterns, four academic majors were identified: Biology/Biological Sciences, Business/Business Administration, Criminal Justice, and Psychology. Collectively, these four degree program paths represent approximately 15 percent of students enrolled in Michigan’s colleges and universities. These majors are evenly divided between liberal arts majors, Psychology and Biology, and more overtly career oriented majors, Business and Criminal Justice.

Research has been conducted by MASU and MCCA staff in order to make the conversation surrounding transfer more efficient and appropriately expeditious. Research on Criminal Justice programs extends across just under 45 Bachelor and Associate programs, with courses on ethics, diversity, and public speaking being required in many of these programs. One challenge of this project is attempting to overcome the tendency for faculty to feel disconnected from the transfer articulation/coordination process. As a means to assuage these concerns, faculty have been recruited to take part in transfer conversations while utilizing this research to provide insights into the similarities among these programs.

At the forefront of this endeavor is a modular approach to pathways work in which transfer is being tested at several institutions in mid-Michigan and focused on a single major, Psychology. These Psychology meetings are predicated on conversations with faculty and academic administrators from Saginaw Valley State University, Delta College, Mid-Michigan College and Central Michigan University, among others, with the intention of potentially developing more streamlined two- to four-year degree pathways in Psychology. This is effectively a trial run for how the development of guided degree transfer pathways might be conducted on a statewide basis with the other three strategic majors. It has been observed in the initial meetings that there are more commonalities than differences among the competencies emphasized within these courses, with a strong interest in continuing the conversation. Further, it should be noted that institutional participation in the guided pathways initiative, while robust, is also voluntary.

Michigan Transfer Network Website Replacement

The second primary area of focus is the Michigan Transfer Network (MTN). The MTN is a formerly award winning student transfer portal that is now in need of substantive updating.  A one-time allocation included in the State’s current year budget has been provided to make the upgrade. The Transfer Steering Committee is leading the charge with the upgrade and MCCA and MASU are serving as key partners in actuating these changes. In order to anticipate the needs of future MTN users, focus groups were conducted at the annual ACPA-Michigan Conference and Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers meetings (with assistance from MCCA staff). These focus groups resulted in helpful insights for the MTN; i.e. questions about how guest students can optimally interface with the MTN and how to designate courses in the MTN as being reverse transfer eligible.

This networked approach to student attainment was designed to reach large numbers of students enrolled in popular majors throughout the state. Collectively, these projects will make transfer more efficient for the substantial numbers of students transferring in Michigan and impact populations who have historically struggled to realize social mobility through higher education.

To Learn More About Statewide Transfer Developments

The MiTransfer Newsletter is an online communication collaboratively produced by the state’s three postsecondary higher education associations: MCCA, MASU and the Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities to share timely information about various state-based student transfer initiatives. Click here to sign-up to receive the newsletter.