Gavin Hollamon, who will graduate from Umpqua Community College in the spring, was late to class Monday because he stopped by the Laverne Murphy Student Center to learn more about transferring after he gets his associate’s degree.
The community college hosted the annual Oregon Transfer Days events so students could talk with representatives of colleges and universities to learn about obtaining a bachelor’s degree.
“It’s good to know there’s more options than just Oregon State or the University of Oregon,” Hollamon said. He talked with representatives of multiple colleges and was impressed by what he learned from Eastern Oregon University and Portland State University representatives.
According to data from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, 63% of community college students who transfer to a four-year institution graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
The reasons students give for the low graduation rate vary from finances to lack of support.
For Elaine Dowdy, who will graduate from UCC in the spring, finances are the biggest hurdle. Dowdy pointed out that financial aid is awarded based on the income of parents, but when parents don’t pay for education, it’s up to the student.
Since Oregon State University moved its scholarship deadline, more students applied and now 30% of all scholarships go to transfer students, according to a study funded by The Ford Family Foundation. The University of Oregon also moved its scholarship deadline to give transfer students more opportunities to apply. Additionally, both institutions have scholarships available specifically for transfer students.
The Ford Family Foundation funded the study that examined how colleges can positively impact “the transfer landscape — and the pathway to improvement.” The report from the foundation looked at select community colleges and universities in Oregon, but did not include Umpqua Community College.
“The goal of the research is to highlight policies and practices that could contribute to strong transfer outcomes for Oregonians,” said Denise Callahan, director of postsecondary success at The Ford Family Foundation, in a press release.
Typically during the first year, students come in to talk with an academic adviser about choosing a major, according to UCC Dean of Enrollment Management Missy Olson. Students will than make an educational plan and receive help from a faculty adviser from that point on.
Although community colleges can now offer bachelor’s degrees in some fields, UCC will not offer any in the immediate future.
“I’m not going to say never, but not in the immediate future, “ UCC President Debra Thatcher said. “Our goal is to really strengthen the programs we have, to add the programs we need that aren’t here — be that certificates or associate level. It could be workforce development — and do what community colleges are supposed to do and do what we do best.”
Thatcher said many of the programs at UCC already have programs in place to set students up for four-year degrees.
Enrollment numbers for winter term 2020 showed that of the 971 students in transfer degree programs, 540 were taking the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree, which did not include the 183 students who were enrolled in the transfer degree for pre-nursing. Additionally, 189 students were enrolled for an Associate of Science degree and 59 in Associate of General Studies. Students can also transfer credits to a four-year school through the Core Transfer Module or Oregon Transfer Module.
As of Monday, 2,580 students were enrolled in credit programs at UCC. In addition to the 971 students in transfer programs, there were 1,132 in career technical education and 477 in expanded options and dual credit programs.
UCC also categorized several different fields within the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree, such as pre-nursing, to better align the student with an adviser. Any of those degrees are designed for students to transfer to a public university in Oregon.
Students in the Associate of Science category often work closely with faculty advisers to make sure their classes align with that of partner schools.
Olson said most of the students at UCC are nontraditional and do not always have the opportunity to study at a four-year college.
“We need to work with what they can do within their family,” Olson said.
Nontraditional students in urban areas, such as Eugene or Portland, have options of taking evening classes in person. One of the solutions for students in rural areas has been online education.
Kerrie Wylam, Roseburg Center director for Eastern Oregon University, has an office on the UCC campus to help students transfer to an online degree program.
In addition to helping students transfer, she also helps proctor exams and assists with financial aid questions. She said Eastern Oregon University has a robust online program and is known as Oregon’s rural college, because it has regional centers — such as the one at UCC — in several areas throughout Oregon.
“There’s somebody local who can help,” Wylam said.
According to the report from the foundation, nearly 50% of students who complete a bachelor’s degree in Oregon have previously attended a community college.
“While only six institutions were included in the case studies, we know there are promising practices and outcomes happening at each of our colleges and universities. We hope that Oregon’s public institutions both see themselves in the findings and learn about new practices, policies, and strategies that may provide opportunities to enhance their current work,” Callahan said. “We recognize that the complexity of the problem requires collaboration. No one institution can succeed alone. By working together, Oregon can be an example of promising practices to support transfer student success.”
UCC faculty members have been a part of ongoing discussions coordinated through the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to streamline the transfer process in Oregon.
Olson said UCC students have also been able to monitor their progress toward a degree by using Degree Works, a degree auditing system, since Summer 2015.
“That has made a big impact,” Olson said. The program is most effective when students have a major selected, but that advisers are available to help students with that process when needed, she said.
“Transfer actually is one of our strategic plan priorities for the year,” Olson said. “We really want to take what we’re currently doing and really see how we can increase it and help our students even more.”