This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page.

  October 23, 2000

Officials Smoothing Path for
Community College Transfers

University officials are reaching out to the state's 12 community colleges, seeking ways to make it attractive and easy for the system's top students to transfer to UConn's Storrs and regional campuses.

At stake, says Michael Menard, director of educational outreach at UConn and coordinator of the effort, are the approximately 35,000 Connecticut residents, young and old, who attend the state's two-year community colleges, many of whom transfer to the Connecticut State University system or private schools. Fewer than 200 per year transfer to UConn.

"We can't take all their students - that's not what this effort is all about," says Susan Steele, vice provost for undergraduate education and instruction. "But we can make ourselves more welcoming. We can work with the community colleges to make it easier for their students to transfer to UConn without losing a large number of their credits. There are thousands of excellent students in their system, and we have to build new, better relationships, and work to bring those students to UConn."

Finding Common Ground
Administrators from UConn and the community colleges have been working to find common ground for nearly two years, but the effort intensified in September, when faculty from UConn and the 12 community colleges began meeting to compare course offerings and determine which courses at the two-year schools are comparable to freshman- and sophomore-level courses offered at UConn. Menard says professors are finding that a wide range of offerings overlap at least to some extent.

"Course to course, that's where the hard work comes in," Menard says. "It's a balancing act. We're not trying to make all the courses transferable. We're a markedly different institution from the community colleges. But there's no reason a number of the 100-level courses can't carry over from one institution to the other."

Menard says UConn and the two-year schools have had a long-standing relationship but, over time, the courses have often "migrated apart." The current effort is intended to bring the two institutions back together.

"We're not interested in setting artificial standards. But we need to set up a clear path for these students to move to UConn, especially once they attain their associate's degree. We have to articulate clearly that if you take these courses and maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average, and you want to transfer to UConn, then you can come to UConn," Menard says.

Regional Opportunities
The initiative's possibilities are enhanced by the addition of four-year degree programs at UConn's regional campuses, Menard says, noting that many community college students choose the local schools for some of the same reasons students apply to UConn's regional campuses - they're less expensive; the students are place-bound, either by jobs or family; night classes are available that are not offered in Storrs; and many of the students tend to be older and find the smaller campuses more accommodating.

UConn's regional campuses can meet those needs. Although the Storrs campus had to cap enrollment this year because of exceptional growth, the University still has capacity at its Avery Point, Hartford, Stamford, Torrington, and Waterbury campuses.

"That's where the growth has to be," Menard says. "The regionals are a much better fit for many community college students."

Many of the regional campuses also offer specific programs that mesh well with area community colleges. Norwalk Community College, for instance, focuses on business and recently won funding to offer an associate's degree in information technology - a discipline that is a highlight of UConn's nearby Stamford campus. And, Menard says, Capital Community College in Hartford and Manchester Community College have ambitious programs in social services and criminal justice - majors that could transfer to the Urban Studies Program at UConn's Hartford campus. UConn officials also are working with Capital Community College on a federal grant that will provide support to students from under-represented populations who are interested in pursuing a degree in the sciences.

At Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, the sciences and engineering are strong, and it's a quick trip down Routes 12 or 32 to UConn's Avery Point campus, where marine sciences and coastal studies majors are available.

Faculty Involvement
Meetings to iron out comparable courses, involving UConn faculty and faculty from each of the 12 community colleges, began Sept. 22 and are scheduled to take place throughout the academic year. Faculty from the institutions' English, mathematics, psychology, biology and history departments will meet this semester, most of them more than once, and five other disciplines will discuss programs next semester, Menard says.

Menard coordinates the meetings, which are facilitated by Pamela Heath-Johnston, an information services specialist at Homer Babbidge Library and an assistant to Paul Kobulnicky, vice chancellor for information services and University librarian. Menard says the exchanges have been positive.

Menard also has met with students and advisors at the community colleges; and counselors from all 12 visited Storrs Oct. 17 for a day of discussions with the transfer admissions staff and for a reintroduction to the ever-changing campus.

Richard Veilleux