Colleges Confused About Student’s Confusion

Colleges refer to a student’s transfer process from the community college to a university as a “pipeline.” To be more accurate, it’s often called a “leaky pipeline.” Colleges are confused, but HS4CC isn’t. Here’s how to assure your pipeline is water tight.

City University of New York (CUNY) has collected a ton of data from a ton of transfer students and were shocked by what they found. In their 2022 report, what shocked me is that their report reflects the exact same landscape as it was when I left my higher education career in 2012. Which is the exact same landscape as it was when I started my career in higher education in 1992.

The leaky pipeline is not new, it’s a reflection of a broken system. The system isn’t going to get fixed anytime soon, so as a Homeschooling for College Credit parent, the best use of your time is to understand where the problems are so you can guide your teen around them and get to earn their degree anyway. Believe me when I tell you, no one cares more about whether or not your teen graduates from college than you. YOU have to be their advocate, because the system will not ensure their success.

You can read the full report here, but in this post, I’m going to give you the highlights and what I believe are the best strategies to overcome each problem.

“80% of associate’s-degree students wish to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree, but six years after beginning college, only about 11% have done so. “

This is a call to action. The facts: MOST students do not graduate, even after they’ve earned their associate degree/first 60 credits. This number does not reflect a few students who couldn’t figure out college or weren’t smart enough to continue. This number is screaming at you that your teen’s chances of getting a 4 year degree in 4 years is SLIM TO NONE unless you intervene.

“All reported credit transfer as the “stage” of the vertical transfer process that presents the largest barrier for students.”

Transferring from 1 college to another has a lot of moving parts, and there is no one employee at the 2 year college or the 4 year college that will hold your hand. HS4CC teens often finish one or more years of college credit while still in high school, as such, parents can make a huge difference in how the credit transfer process comes together.

Before you commit to an associate degree, as opposed to just earning college credit, which is usually the better option, you have to know whether or not your teen will want a bachelor’s degree in the next few years following their associate’s degree.

  • If your teen will pursue a bachelor’s immediately after the associate’s degree, you have to plan the degrees simultaneously- think of the process as 1 plan with 2 stages.
  • If your teen will not pursue a bachelor’s in the few years following an associate degree, you’ll have 1 plan with 1 stage.

“Almost 50% of respondents reported academic plans, current courses, and/or financial aid as topics they most sought to discuss with advisors, only around 10% said that about the topic of transfer.”

This is a perfect example of how the college deflects blame. A college thinks academic plans and course selection are in one bucket, and that transfer topics are in a second bucket. But, when a student talks to their academic advisor about academic plans and current courses, THEY ARE ASSUMING the advisor’s advice will help them transfer! Students consider these topics to be one in the same. Advisors expect the students to manage their own transfer plan and students expect advisors to manage their transfer plan.

  • Prior to the first course of your first semester as a transfer student, your initial meeting with the academic advisor must include a plan for transfer. Make this crystal clear.
  • Prior to each semester, schedule an appointment with the academic advisor and reiterate your plan for transfer, and have the advisor look at each planned semester for problems. A well-planned 2 year degree has as many as 6 semesters, these should be reviewed every semester.

“The median amount of time between transcript evaluation and the start of classes was less than two months. This means that most of these vertical transfer students did not have full information about the courses for which they should register until after registration had been open for many months, at which point many, if not all, desirable courses were already full.”

In short, this means that students aren’t meeting with the advisor of the new college early enough. If you intend to transfer traditionally, that means you need to be ready to go for fall (August/September) class start date, so you have a lot of work to do in your final semester at the community college.

  • During the Spring semester before you intend to transfer (January of the year when you plan to start in August) you must meet with the second advisor- the one at the new college who will pick up where your community college advisor leaves off.
  • Registration at your second college likely happens 3-5 months before classes begin.
  • During your Spring semester, you will work with both advisors at the same time. This will be chaotic and confusing, but be hyper-vigilant during this process to make sure each advisor is crystal clear about what you’re trying to accomplish.

“Our respondents seemed to know little about CUNY transfer policy and practice.”

This is true at 100% of the colleges 100% of the time. Transfer policy and practice is confusing and uses jargon that most students don’t understand. In addition, a few words in a transfer policy distinguish between a few credits transferring and a full degree. Even when students are given a transfer policy, it’s likely very formal and hard to understand.

  • Ask your advisor to show you where to find your transfer policy, often called an articulation agreement, for the degree you’re earning. (There IS ONE!)
  • Obtain a written copy of the articulation agreement. Make sure both college’s names are on it. If your target college is not on the agreement, this may not be the right policy!
  • You need to know what is going to transfer. Are the CREDITS going to transfer, or is the WHOLE DEGREE going to transfer? These are different things and will have huge implications based on which one you’re under. In the report from CUNY, only credits transfer, not whole degrees. In their survey, fewer than 10% of students knew that.

“Where are students getting their information about transfer? By far the most common source reported by our students is websites. However, as shown by this survey’s results, and by other research, websites can be woefully lacking in good, comprehensive information about transfer. And without good information, students cannot make optimal vertical transfer decisions that will keep them on track to their bachelor’s degrees.”

That quote should make you enraged. Of course students get their information from the websites. It is to your advantage to find out where the college’s academic policies and processes are held.

  • Transfer policies for each college are usually held in that college’s “College Catalog” for each academic year. In other words, last year’s catalog may be different from this year’s or even next years! So you need the current College Catalog.
  • You need the current College Catalog from BOTH colleges you’re using.
  • Sometime articulation agreements are supplementary documents.
  • Everything a college does is in writing– find the written words and use those. The words told to you should be considered unofficial.

“Facilitating these students’ formation of friendships and engagement at their new colleges, may help decrease the leaks.”

As the summary starts to wind down, the authors begin to blame students for their role in the leaky pipeline and NOT finishing their degree. Among the “causes” cited by that college is the accusation that the student didn’t make enough friends to transfer well.

“Students’ concerns about credit transfer need to be addressed by ensuring that credits transfer as applying to degree requirements, and students need to have full knowledge of how their credits will transfer far ahead of registration. None of these are easy fixes. But they are also not impossible. “

The conclusion does a great job of stating the obvious, and you can be sure that everyone feels really great about the massive data collection they obtained through these 31,000 students. Let me give you my own conclusion: It’s all on you.


Past posts you might also like to read

Transfer Your 2-year Degree into a 4-Year Degree

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Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit