Community college students face more challenges than others when it comes to being accepted to four-year institutions as well as completing their undergraduate degrees. Universities that understand the diversity and unique qualities of transfer students do a better job of recruiting this pool of talent and helping them to succeed. Now a national honor society is recognizing four-year institutions that do the best job of attracting and supporting transfer students.
Seattle University is the only university on the West Coast among the inaugural recipients of the "Excellence in Community College Transfer Honor Roll" awarded by Phi Theta Kappa, the oldest, largest and most prestigious honor society for students pursuing two-year degrees. Phi Theta Kappa recognized just 40 colleges and universities.
Institutions that applied for a spot on the honor roll were judged based on a questionnaire and references that asked about engagement, collaboration, impact and achievements related to the transfer of community college students as well as partnerships, support, admissions outreach, scholarships/financial aid, student engagement opportunities and institutional priorities.
Seattle U also was assessed for its "transfer innovations." Three were called out by the university in its application: A one-stop center called the Redhawk Resource Hub where all students can drop in for assistance, guidance and support; an advisory council and staff dedicated to supporting student veterans (most of whom are transfer students); and a transfer convocation that serves as a special welcome to transfers in the fall.
"Seattle University is grateful to receive this important acknowledgement of our efforts to help transfer students enroll and achieve success," says Melore Nielsen, dean of admissions. "This honor reflects the dedication and support of the entire Seattle U community that recognizes the importance of transfer students and the many diverse ways they enrich the student body."
In her letter of support for Seattle U's application, Kelli Adams, transfer coordinator at Seattle Central College, cited the university's "exceptional efforts to create seamless transfer opportunities for our community college students."
Adams said examples included transfer admission guarantees, hosting several immersive student group visits annually, admissions staff who attend all of SCC's transfer fairs, conducting information sessions for SCC students during transfer week events and offering merit scholarships to both U.S. and international students.
Adams said 72 percent of SCC transfer students who attended Seattle U between 2008 and 2011 graduated and completed a degree within two years.
"These statistics are important to us because we not only want to set students up for a successful transfer," says Adams, "but also we want our students to persist and complete their bachelor's degree as well."
In her letter of reference, Lindsay Masters, a current undergraduate nursing student who transferred from Bellevue Community College in 2014, lauded the Seattle U transfer experience, from initial contact with the university several months before the application deadline through admissions and orientation.
"Everyone I worked with was genuine, caring and very informed," she says. "…The relationship that they took the time to foster with me helped place Seattle University at the top of my list of desired institutions."
Christin Grissom, director of scholarship operations for Phi Theta Kappa, said the new honor roll program reflects the growing importance of transfer students in helping the U.S. achieve its college completion goals and will promote further study and sharing of best practices.
"Increasingly, students of all ages and achievement levels are choosing community college-not only as their first step, but also their first choice-in the pursuit of a quality, affordable bachelor's degree," Grissom says. "With this designation, we hope to connect community college students with institutions who value their unique transfer experience and prioritize their success."
Click here for a complete list of institutions named to the 2016 Excellence in Community College Transfer Honor Roll.