The need to improve success rates for community college students who transfer to four-year institutions has been a national conversation for some time, but has only recently come to the forefront in North Carolina. Although about 80% of community college students nationally begin their studies with plans to transfer to a four-year institution, researchers estimate that only around 15% actually transfer and subsequently complete a bachelor’s degree. For this reason, a nationally recognized expert on community college transfer has been chosen to deliver this year’s Dallas Herring Lecture.
Hosted by the NC State College of Education’s Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research*, the annual lecture invites national community college leaders to speak on urgent and emerging topics and discuss solutions that are both practice-based and rooted in research.
Sanford “Sandy” Shugart, Ph.D., president of Valencia College in Orlando, Fla. — which was awarded the first Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence for its high rates of graduation, transfer and job placement — will speak on “Ecosystem Thinking in Higher Education: The Future of Transfer” at this year’s lecture on Dec. 3.
“We’re taking a national agenda and bringing it to a statewide conversation, both on the practice side and the research side,” said Audrey Jaeger, Ph.D., executive director of the Belk Center and Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor of the NC State College of Education. “When President Shugart talks, he’s going to talk about the partnership between universities and community colleges that have to start much earlier than when a student decides to transfer.”
Although the Dallas Herring Lecture series began as a traditional academic lecture, the event has transformed to focus on student success; teaching and learning, completion and transfer, equity and labor market outcomes. Lectures focused on these topics have led to long-term priority areas of focus for improvement at the Belk Center.
Following last year’s lecture from Achieving the Dream President and CEO Karen Stout, community college presidents reached out to the Belk Center to discuss ways to intentionally engage faculty in conversations about student success.
This led to the Belk Center partnering with Achieving the Dream to conduct site visits around teaching and learning at community colleges. Monique Colclough, Ph.D., postdoctoral senior research associate at the Belk Center, describes the teaching and learning visits as an example of timely engagement with a cross section of community colleges to assess how professional development around teaching and learning for faculty and staff is prioritized, developed and supported. These site visits will lead to individual executive reports for community college presidents as well as a larger report to be shared with colleagues at the NC Student Success Center to inform their work on faculty development.
Even before the 2019 Dallas Herring Lecture takes place, the Belk Center is already diving into data surrounding the state of transfer at North Carolina community colleges to highlight current research around the subject that could inform future change.
A report, which will be released in December in conjunction with Shugart’s lecture, will look at student outcomes in all 58 of the state’s community colleges, discuss the comprehensive articulation agreement (CAA) that governs the transfer of credits from community colleges to public universities in North Carolina, and examine student completion data.
“The idea of the report is to both give an overview of the state of transfer in North Carolina and highlight some of the research that we’ve already been doing on transfer, particularly with a view to how that research can inform policy and practice in the future,” said Melissa Whatley, Ph.D., postdoctoral senior research associate with the Belk Center.
Shugart’s lecture and the forthcoming report are the first in a series of steps the Belk Center will take this academic year to address issues surrounding transfer between community colleges and four-year institutions.
“With our Belk Center National Advisory board, we have nearly 40 state and national leaders who have engaged in transfer issues for decades. We will seek their opinion on the next most important questions to address that will inform practice,” Jaeger said. “Their advice will inform our future research and related activity.”
*The Belk Center is currently in the planning stage. It is in compliance with NC State’s Policy on Centers and Institutes.