More Private Colleges Court Community College Transfers

David Moltz, USA Today, February 18, 2010

Community college transfer students are no longer being courted only by the usual suspects. More private institutions, of every ilk, are aggressively recruiting students from two-year colleges, hoping to bolster and diversify their enrollments and capitalize on the belt-tightening of regional public universities.

“I see more and more privates getting out there and recruiting transfers, whereas there really weren’t that many out there even just a few years ago,” says Brenda Doran, director of transfer admissions at Bryant University, a small, tuition-driven independent institution in Rhode Island that has traditionally relied on community college transfers to meet its enrollment goals. “As with any competition, you just have to be more aggressive than you were in the past.”

Not so long ago, Doran and her colleagues from Bryant were among only a handful of private institutions in the Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts area that actively recruited at local community colleges. Now, competition for these area students is coming not only from other small, tuition-driven private institutions–such as Salve Regina University, in Rhode Island, and Sage College of Albany, in New York–but from some of the sector’s elites. Thus, while Bryant has long had an admissions staff position dedicated to the recruitment of community college students, institutions such as Amherst recently added such positions, thanks to grant funding from groups such as the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

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For well-endowed private institutions, such as the University of Southern California and New York University–both of which have ratcheted up community college recruitment recently–seeking qualified two-year transfer students improves their demographic mix.

“It helps the selective privates with their diversity, in terms of race and socioeconomic status,” says Josipa Roksa, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education who does some community college research. “To get students in certain income brackets, it matters. Oftentimes it’s easier to recruit at community colleges than at challenged high schools. For those who value diversity, whether it’s because of the [college] rankings or their mission, this is where you go.”

This push for diversity drives the recruitment of community college students at places like Southern California–where only 13% of undergraduates are Latino, compared to 48% of residents in its home city, Los Angeles.

“We’ve been working hard to get minority students from the surrounding area,” says Tatiana Melguizo, professor at USC’s Rossier School of Education. “If you look at the first-time freshman students we admit, they’re not as diverse. Still, the university has alternative ways of accepting transfers to bring in the kind of diversity that they can’t get up front. Community college transfers were the best deals. They’re motivated, they’re more likely to graduate, and they’re relatively cheap” for the college to educate.

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