Paving Pathways To higher Degrees
In keeping with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) 60x30TX Plan, which aims to boost the number of college degrees and certificates achieved in the state, Tarrant County College has strengthened existing partnerships and forged new alliances as a way of increasing access and improving completion rates. Currently, 38 percent of Texans have a degree or certificate, according to THECB, but the winds are shifting.
Since opening its doors in 1965, TCC has provided an affordable way for thousands of Texans to obtain a bachelor’s degree—by completing the first two years at TCC then transferring to a four-year institution with junior standing. Students can enjoy a supportive academic environment and a sense of community—all while saving thousands of dollars.
Statewide, approximately 34 percent of all first-time transfer students from a public two-year college to a public university in Texas had completed the core curriculum (11,054 of 32,531 students), according to a report published by the THECB. The core curriculum is a 42-semester-credit, general education program of study that fulfills lower-division general education requirements. Once the core curriculum has been completed, students may have the block of courses transferred to any Texas public institution.
TCC offers approximately 70 detailed articulation agreements with four-year institutions, paving a pathway to help students transfer. The most recent TCC Transfer Success Report—which charts the progress by a cohort of TCC students who transferred to a four-year college or university—shows the 10 largest community colleges in the state sent a total of 22,900 transfer students to Texas public universities in fall 2014, with TCC sending 12 percent of those transfers.
Top five schools receiving TCC students as first-time transfers:
- The University of Texas at Arlington—1,186
- University of North Texas—546
- Tarleton State University—212
- Texas Women’s University—154
- Texas Tech University—77
“To be honest, I thought I was above TCC at the beginning. I was 17 years old, with 26 college hours from high school. I mean, schools like Baylor had not only accepted me but had offered me automatic scholarship offers. Let me tell you something, I was proven wrong very, very fast,” said Gerardo Montes Rascon, TCC Northwest alum. “As competitive as I was in high school, I had no concept of some of the major skills needed that would ‘make or break you’ at a four-year university.” Rascon is currently an entrepreneurial business management student matriculating at UT Arlington.
One of the biggest obstacles to transfers is a credit transfer evaluation. According to Nancy Curé, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs for TCC, evaluators have a range of professional responsibilities and are inconsistent in their application of academic application standards. Some institutions in North Texas, however, are working together to change this perception of the transfer pathway.
“TCC, along with partner Dallas County Community College District, is working together with The University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas at Dallas, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Texas Wesleyan University, Texas Women’s University, University of North Texas and Texas Christian University to facilitate the transfer process, making it more seamless for students,” said Curé.
While this level of collaboration is happening behind the scenes, TCC campuses host transfer fairs each semester for students interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree. These one-day events allow students to meet one-on-one with recruiters from four-year schools to learn about admissions, financial aid, majors, and much more. TCC Northwest, for example, hosts the Transfer Fiesta in September and the Texas Association of College Registrars and Admission Officers (TACRAO) Annual University Transfer Fair in January.
“Our students are highly sought after because they are known to be high achievers, and of course, studies show that community college students complete their bachelor’s programs at higher rates than other students,” said Lourdes Davenport, coordinator of the transfer center at TCC Northwest.
Last spring, at least 40 recruiters visited each campus during TACRAO Week, with the Trinity River Campus hosting 70 schools. Their goal? To find impressive TCC talent to add to their respective student populations.
“In my experience as an undergraduate recruiter at Tarleton State University, I’ve noticed that TCC students are incredibly eager and motivated to pursue their educational goals and start their careers,” said Ryan Dickerson, outreach specialist for Tarleton State University.
TCC students are prepared for the university experience by the time they earn their associate degree, which not only makes them the ideal university transfer student, but also effective community leaders.
Additional efforts to improve the transfer pathway include data sharing between members of the regional transfer and articulation council, which has allowed all stakeholders to take a closer look at student success trends and improve upon those.
“All partners are coming to the table willing to share data about students,” Curé explained. “What we’ve learned is that the four-year schools want our transfer students. Most of the four-year schools have organized or developed transfer departments on their campuses completely focused on assisting students with transfer to the four-year school.”
Benefits to students beginning their academic journey at TCC:
About 80 percent of students entering college are not certain what major to choose, according to the website MyMajors.com. Since community college offers a wide range of courses, students can test drive a major before attending the four-year school of choice. Attending a community college for the first two years is especially beneficial for recent high school graduates because they will experience some personal growth and maturation the first few years after graduation.
While paying for college is a big consideration, Tarrant County College can help students lower the cost of pursuing a four-year degree. Tuition for a 15-hour course load at TCC is $885, one of the lowest rates in the country.
Because the average community college class holds between 25 and 30 students, there is more opportunity for students to interact with their professors and each other. Students can learn from seasoned veterans teaching at TCC. Most faculty members possess a master’s or doctoral degree in their discipline.