Facilitating Transfer a Priority for College, University and Government LeadersThomas Snyder | President, Ivy Tech Community College
Improving the national attainment rate is a priority for every higher education leader across the United States, regardless of status, financial model or degrees conferred. One of the major challenges facing two-year colleges is that they serve many students who aim to transfer to a four-year institution before earning their associate’s degree, but they’re often unable to transfer all their credits along with them, costing thousands of dollars and years in time. In this interview, Thomas Snyder reflects on how Ivy Tech is working to minimize student dropouts prior to earning credentials—either two-year or four-year—through robust articulation agreements, and shares his thoughts on the role the federal government needs to play in further strengthening transfer pathways.
The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why did Ivy Tech decide to partner with Strayer University?
Thomas Snyder (TS): We sign dozens of articulation agreements like the one with Strayer. We’re particularly impressed with Strayer as one of the really successful online schools for adults. About half of our 150,000 enrolled students are non-traditional adult students or non-traditional high school students. For them to be able to graduate from here and go on to pursue a four-year degree from Strayer makes them a perfect partner.
Evo: How does Ivy Tech benefit from this partnership?
TS: States now are moving to put all of their public colleges on performance metrics and we are certainly in that arena. We think we’re doing a great job getting people into the job market but we’re having a little more difficulty getting people to stay to get their credential. We think that having partners who are available 24/7 like Strayer encourages people to complete their four-year degree with them. And along the way, they pick up enough credits so if they didn’t get their associate’s degree from us, they can earn one through reverse transfer of credits.
Evo: What are a few of the challenges to launching this pathway partnership?
TS: The typical challenge is to make sure that we’re getting students into a four-year transfer track. We made some real progress there in that we divided the school into four divisions—four majors, if you will—and one of those is the university/transfer division. Students that want to transfer have their minds set on a four-year degree and they can easily see which courses are part of the pathway transfer track. We also have a general education core that transfers to every school in the state, which we laid in front of Strayer to show them that our students are well prepared to do third- and fourth-year work when they leave here.
Evo: How does the commitment to transfer help Ivy Tech stand out as a regional leader in two-year education?
TS: Transfer is one of the core missions of the community college. In fact, for some community colleges that is their sole mission. Some of the Florida colleges almost operate as a single institution with local universities because access it so limited at the four-year level, so students must start at the two-year college.
In Indiana it’s a little bit different. There is plenty of accessibility to four-year institutions. The students who start with us are typically going to be students that need serious financial support or students coming back late in their career who need developmental work. We specialize in taking those students that are not quite ready for four-year college work and preparing them for that level of rigor.
Evo: At the moment, these pathway partnerships are typically restricted to specific colleges and universities. What role do you think accrediting and government bodies need to play in the widespread formalization of these kinds of articulation agreements?
TS: Accrediting and government bodies should look at the Florida model, which spells out that if you have an associate of arts degree and an acceptable GPA level you are given the opportunity to transfer and are guaranteed a spot in the four-year school, at the third-year level with all your credits accepted.
One of the reasons we have to have separate articulation agreements with every school is to get around the fact that they may not accept all the credits. For example, the student takes 60 credits and they may have to retake 10 or even 15 credits that do not count at the university. That’s an additional semester, which in a public residential school could be a $10,000 additional cost. We’re trying to help students avoid those extra costs.
It’s not an accrediting issue. I think we have to approach this as a Title IV issue, which involves Pell grant money. Pell funding should not go to states that don’t have solid transfer agreements. We want more students to go to college and we want them to typically start at the four-year level. I’m on the President’s Committee on America’s College Promise and while community colleges are the lowest cost—they’re virtually free today—not everybody understands it. We think this might be a way for the federal government to make this work without being too intrusive.
Evo: Do you have anything you’d like to add on this articulation agreement and how Ivy Tech’s commitment to transfer helps the college differentiate itself?
TS: We have about 30,000 people each semester who are in a transfer program and we’re transferring literally half of those every year. We think this is a real opportunity to extend the attainment level in the state of Indiana at a low cost. Indiana is in the bottom of the pack of the college attainment we think one of our next missions is to fix that.