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Transferring Success

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By Dr. Al Roberts

In March of this year, 250 representatives from more than 60 educational institutions across Virginia met to discuss potential obstacles facing students with plans to transfer to baccalaureate-awarding colleges and universities after beginning their postsecondary educational journeys at two-year institutions. Existing pathways involve an assortment of articulation agreements that can be complex to navigate. The Virginia Community College System maintains agreements with more than three dozen public and private colleges and universities. These are supplemented with hundreds of additional agreements between individual institutions.

Legislation addressing this concern led to the development of Transfer Virginia, a three-year initiative to reform the Commonwealth’s transfer system. Goals include improving communication and collaboration among institutions of higher education, more closely aligning academic expectations, and streamlining agreements that facilitate transfers.

Removing barriers to transfer success offers significant financial benefits. When compared with the cost of beginning academic pursuits directly at four-year institutions, students who begin their postsecondary education at a community college can save an estimated $17,000 on the cost of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Part of the savings can be lost, however, if students are unable to apply all earned credits toward their degrees.  According to some estimates, the current system can cost improperly prepared students the equivalent of an extra semester in time, tuition, and fees.

To address these concerns, SVCC offers resources to help guide and prepare students. Transfer Clubs on both main campuses give students opportunities to explore options. Four-year college campus fairs and visits highlight opportunities. Transfer counselors provide one-on-one and group guidance. Added to these efforts, SVCC is playing an active role in the work of Transfer Virginia to develop consistent and uniform transferability between all of Virginia’s community colleges and baccalaureate-awarding institutions. Specific tasks include developing transferrable programs where all courses satisfy lower-division general education requirements, mapping degree program requirements from two-year to four-year programs, ensuring common student learning outcomes in all transfer courses, and exploring dual admission and co-enrollment.

The VCCS Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Workforce Programs, Sharon Morrissey, explains Transfer Virginia’s anticipated results: “Virginia will be better off for the effort, with a higher education system that is more affordable, more efficient, more equitable, and more relevant for students in the 21st century marketplace.” Transfer Virginia estimates that it will result in the Commonwealth’s ability to award more than 6,000 additional baccalaureate degrees annually to transfer students.

SVCC already has a strong record for preparing transfer students for success. The top five destinations for transferring graduates are Old Dominion University, Longwood University, Liberty University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia State University. For more information on how to structure your educational journey with the most efficiently, contact Matt Dunn, Transfer Counselor, at 434-736-2020 or matt.dunn@southside.edu.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

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