GRCC faculty is finding more ways to make transferring easier for students

GRCC faculty is finding more ways to make transferring easier for students

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Board of Trustees learn about the struggles and accomplishments over from the past year. - Rachael Yadlowsky

During this month’s Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees meeting, Mike Vargo, the Dean of the School Arts and Sciences, reported that less than 30 percent of students are full time during the transfer pathway monitoring report.

Vargo said the transfer pathway team have seen a significant decline in GRCC’s graduation rate for an associate’s degree. Less than 13 percent of students graduated after three years and only a quarter of them transferred after five years.

The transfer pathway team has created two plans to address the low rates. The first strategy is to improve transfer knowledge and infrastructure, which makes sure that the students, faculty and staff are aware of the transfer issues and the second strategy is to improve the student transfer pathways themselves. Improving the pathways will involve work with GRCC’s destination institutions like Ferris State and Grand Valley.

Vargo also introduced the board to the different projects that the pathways team is engaging in through the College Action Project (CAP) as well as a new CAP plan.

The CAP team is going to be holding student focus groups throughout the year to get student feedback.

Vargo also discussed the different kinds of services that are offered to students that are on the path to transferring.

“We have a lot of services that are available to students that will encourage transfer,” he said. “But the emphasis on this CAP is to just accumulate them – pull them together to integrate them into the student experience here.”

The Transfer Pathway team often holds transfer fairs and other events in partnership with Ferris, Grand Valley and other Michigan colleges to help students figure out where they want to transfer to and to help students transfer as easy as possible.

The team is also working on a transfer handbook, so students who know that they want to transfer can read up on that process from an early point in their experience at GRCC.

“We are also providing an incoming student checklist,” Vago said. “Students who know that they want to transfer get this document that helps them understand the process and we can track their progress throughout their time here.”

The checklist is similar to the My Degree Path that is provided to students via their GRCC online student center but has links to the Michigan Transfer Agreement to track their path.

The team is working on new strategies on how to help students transfer and graduate faster.

“We know that the longer it takes for folks to get through that degree pipeline, the less likely they’re actually going to get through that pipeline,” Vargo said.

GRCC faculty members Sheila Jones, the Dean of Instructional Support and Christina McElwee, a developmental reading and writing professor informed the board of GRCC’s mid-year accomplishments.

The accomplish that was presented with the most emphasis is the development of a learning outcomes assessment for the faculty. This will give faculty a better understanding of how and what the students are learning.

“We found that we have a better understanding of general education at GRCC as a whole,” McElwee said. “It’s really exciting to see the light bulb go off and really understanding the purpose behind this.”

The team has also developed faculty professional development activities, which were held throughout the 2017 fall semester and they will continue into the winter semester.

Afterward, Vargo re-entered to give data on the success of the students at GRCC.

The goal of the faculty at GRCC is to make sure that the students are ready to integrate into the university of their choice without fault. This means making sure that the student’s GPA matches the average GPA of the students in the university that they are transferring to.

“We want to make sure that our students are able to compete with the students that are already there,” Vargo said. “And this data suggests that that is absolutely the case. We are seeing that our average GPA is 3.1 for both this year and last year. This suggests that our students are really well prepared to be successful when they get to the campus (of the transfer school).”

Lastly, Vice President of Financial Aid and Admissions, Lisa Freiburger, provided the monthly financial update.

Freiburger said she has seen a positive trend in both revenue and enrollment than what was projected in the 2017-18 budget.

“A couple other large adjustments include the personal property tax payment which came in about $215,000 higher than expected,” Freiburger said. “The state also passed a one-time Retirement payment which gives us a $1.2 million increase. These are helping us pull bad debt down by about $400,000.”

The next board meeting is scheduled for Mon. Feb. 19 at 4:15 p.m. in the Board of Trustees Library.

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