The Aspen Institute Inc.
Date of Award
Education, Higher Education
Term of Grant
Driving College Completion and Enhancing Equity via Transfer Pathways
One of the greatest inefficiencies in higher education today is the gap between the aspirations of community college students — 80 percent of whom aspire to receive a bachelor’s degree — and outcomes for those same students: Only 15% of community college students attain a bachelor’s degree within six years of entering community college. The goals of this project are to contribute to a fundamental change in this reality, fostering within higher education institutions and systems nationally (1) urgency to improve community college to university transfer student outcomes, (2) a new and useful definition of transfer success based on student outcomes, and (3) new information about how to create highly effective, scaled transfer pathways that substantially increase associate’s and bachelor’s degree completion rates. Our project will address transfer success in multiple fields, with special emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and underserved populations. The ultimate measure of this project’s success will be significant increases in the number of (1) students who begin in community college and attain a bachelor’s degree of economic value, (2) students who begin in community college and attain a STEM bachelor’s degree of economic value, and (3) minority and low-income students who begin in community college and attain a bachelor’s degree of economic value overall and in STEM. Achieving those outcomes will benefit: • Students who would not have attained a bachelor’s degree absent improved transfer pathways; • Communities where economic opportunity will expand due to greater numbers of college graduates, and • Investors in higher education — including taxpayers, families, and students themselves — who will receive greater returns on their money and time. The three partners engaged in the work proposed in this application — the Aspen Institute, Teachers College at Columbia University, and the National Student Clearinghouse — together bring the experience and expertise needed to conduct strong research, clearly explain findings to the field, and effectively advocate for improved transfer policy and practice. Because it will take students multiple years to complete new and improved transfer pathways, we have included later in this application a set of interim outcomes we will pursue and monitor that we have identified as correlated with the outcomes we ultimately aim to achieve (please see the “Outcome” section below).