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More Students Choose Community College Transfer En Route To Bachelor's Degree

Emily Corwin

  Twenty-six thousand dollars. That’s about how much students can save by going to a community college for two years, then transferring to a four-year school. Not including financial aid or room and meals.

Those $26 thousand dollars are changing the plans of more and more students in New Hampshire. And that’s good news for students, and possibly for the University System at large.

Pragmatic Decisions

Rebekah Lamirande has plans to get a Masters degree in nursing.  She says growing up, she was sure she’d go to a four year college.  Her father has a PhD, and her mother has two degrees, too.  Of course, then the recession happened. LaMirande was in High School.

“It just wasn’t in the cards, moneywise,” she says.  “I didn’t want to graduate with over $100,000 worth of student loans.”

Since 2007, the number of students transferring from community colleges into the state’s university system increased by 57 percent.

That number has been growing steadily in part because of a simplified transfer agreement between the state’s Community College and University Systems, which got underway in 2009. 

Streamlining Transfer

New Hampshire is one of the first states in the nation to have such a broad transfer agreement. Erica Brown, the career and transfer coordinator at Great Bay Community College, helped spearhead the new process. She says the new application doesn’t require an essay, SAT scores, or an application fee.

Now, New Hampshire community college students are guaranteed admission to one of the state’s four-year schools. They just need a certain number of completed credits, and a certain GPA.

Erica Brown says, the application form is just two pages long, with things like name, address, and a signature to release transcripts.

Experts say few other states in the country have this kind of statewide transfer agreement. 

Transfer Students Thrive

Ashley Desrochers is a senior at UNH. She says the easy transfer process was important to her in choosing not to go to UNH for all four years, but to start at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord. 

Desrochers says although her peers at NHTI were not as ambitious or driven as her classmates at UNH, the academics were just as good. In fact, class sizes were much smaller. “I would never think a community college education is less than a university education,” she says.

Universities Anticipate Fewer Applicants

The fact that students who would have matriculated as freshmen at universities -- but are starting at community college instead – is getting noticed by university administrators.  

Rob McGann is Director of Admissions at UNH.  He says today, UNH is recruiting hard at community colleges.

That’s because universities like UNH are fretting about changing demographics.  As the number of 18 year olds is steadily declining across the Northeast, universities like UNH expect fewer and fewer applicants in years to come.  And fewer applicants means a less competitive student body, and shrinking tuition revenue.

By aligning curricula, streamlining the application process, and recruiting on-site, New Hampshire is trying to keep community college transfer students not just in the state, but enrolled New Hampshire’s university system. Ass McGann says, schools “see community college students as tremendous resources, tremendous opportunities.”

McGann also says students who transfer from community college to UNH excel just as much as their 4-year counterparts. 

Reaching Aspiring Students

But making the leap from a 2-year to a 4-year school isn’t easy for everyone.  A 2006 survey from the Department of Education showed that 72 percent of students who start at community college want to transfer to a four-year program. But in New Hampshire, only about 20 percent actually do. That number is much lower nationwide.

So, one might hope, that as the state invests more in community college recruitment, ever more aspiring college students will be able to make the leap from 2-year schools to a baccalaureate degree. 

And with shrinking numbers of 18 year olds in New Hampshire, that wouldn’t just be good news for the students. It’d be good news for the University System’s bottom line.  

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