Program Creates Pathway from Community College to Universities

Community colleges offer a variety of benefits to students. They’re typically more affordable and accessible than four-year schools, for instance. Community colleges can be a stepping stone for students who can complete classes at a much lower per-credit rate and then transfer to a four-year school for the remaining two years to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), approximately 41 percent of American college students attend a community college, and about 30 percent of them will ultimately transfer to a four-year school. Of that group, however, only about five percent of community college students who move on to a four-year institution attend a highly selective college or university.

Best Colleges reports that at the most competitive private institutions, 0.9percent of students are community college transfers. The good news is that community college students who transfer to the most competitive colleges have a higher graduation rate than their non-transfer counterparts. Once they’re accepted, they can and will succeed.

Transfer Scholars Network (TSN) is an organization that connects high-achieving community college students to dedicated admissions representatives of selective four-year colleges that have generous financial aid programs. TSN is currently partnering with 21 colleges and universities with the addition of Bowdoin College earlier this month. Participating four-year institutions include Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, Amherst College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Participating community colleges include LaGuardia Community College, Miami Dad College and Holyoke Community College. The full list of currently participating four-year institutions and community colleges can be found here.

TSN is an offshoot of the American Talent Initiative (ATI), a collective of 133 high-graduation-rate American colleges and universities devoted to increasing access and success for students from lower-income backgrounds. ATI prioritizes community college transfer as an important strategy to reach this goal. ATI is co-managed by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit with the goal of realizing a free, just and equitable society.

The program facilitates direct connections between high-achieving community college students and senior admissions representatives at the highly-selective colleges and universities. These students are nominated for TSN based on eligibility criteria including demonstrated academic achievement, financial need, holistic life and professional experiences and transfer readiness. Once students receive their nomination letters, they submit a short application to the TSN portal. Then, they are connected with senior admissions officers at the four-year institutions and can access exclusive webinars and resources, generous financial aid and ongoing support.

In the program’s first admissions cycle in spring 2022, at least 20 percent of TSN students who applied to four-year partner colleges received offers of admission. This outpaces the average admission rate of 15.6 percent at these institutions. The next phase of TSN will include more partner-led workshops, additional webinars and transfer resources for both students and colleges and universities.