Lessons from a decentralized state

In 2016, four organizations – the Michigan Community College Association, the Michigan Association of State Universities, the Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers – joined together to form the Michigan Transfer Steering Committee with a focus on increasing the attainment of an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree among transfer students to Michigan.

Their goal was to make the overall transfer experience more efficient, easy to understand, and simple to navigate while optimizing credit transfer in a state with little higher education policy and no public body to coordinate institutions. Their transformational work culminated in the creation of MiTransfer Pathways, Michigan’s statewide transfer pathways. Through MiTransfer Pathways, students can take required and recommended courses in Year 1 and Year 2 at any participating community college and be ready to enroll in upper division courses at any participating baccalaureate institution in 10 program areas including art, biology, business, communication, criminal justice, exercise science, mechanical engineering, psychology, public health, and social work.

Why was it so transformative?

Overcoming the obstacles to transparent transfer is difficult under any circumstances, but overcoming these obstacles in a constitutionally decentralized state that grants considerable autonomy to all of its 28 public community colleges and 15 public universities makes the job even more difficult. While having a system to coordinate and support institutional reform efforts does not guarantee progress, it certainly facilitates some of the fundamental work of building transfer channels. In the absence of a policy and regulatory structure within which to operate, the Michigan Transfer Steering Committee had to strive to create the conditions for institutions to tackle the hard work of building transfer pathways. clear and consistent. To develop the MiTransfer Pathways, Michigan hosted faculty from colleges and universities across the state to identify required, recommended, optional, or appropriate courses for students to take in their first and second years. The full report, “Points of Pride: Transfer Progress in Michigan,” describes how giant easel stamps and mailing labels were used to quickly identify courses.

In even highly structured systems, inter-institutional faculty engagement is sporadic, limited to annual faculty meetings in certain disciplines, and disconnected from broader efforts to improve student achievement and close equity gaps. The process developed in Michigan through the committee initiated engagement among faculty from community colleges, public universities, and independent institutions. By collectively identifying and creating transfer opportunities between sectors, and bringing private and public universities together at the same table, the MiTransfer Pathways project has shown what is possible when institutions come together voluntarily. With 28 community colleges and 30 public and independent licensing institutions participating in MiTransfer Pathways, students now have more equitable access to transfer opportunities in Michigan. To participate in the course, participating colleges and universities must accept and apply all courses from each participating community college (with some exceptions). Community colleges can deliver on the promise that students can “start here, go anywhere” because we know that every MiTransfer Pathway course will meet program requirements at participating universities.

Counselors and counselors have many topics to discuss with students in regular counseling sessions, including career exploration, selecting a major, gaining work experience, and connecting with campus and community resources. The board does not need to focus entirely on an elaborate course selection. MiTransfer Pathways has made it easy to select courses for students and to schedule courses for colleges. Since faculty have identified a small (plus) set of major-specific courses in Year 1 and Year 2, students no longer need to choose from the à la carte course menu, and colleges may serve a balanced meal of program-specific courses that are more likely to be filled and less likely to be canceled due to low enrollment rates. Prospective psychology students, for example, can start with the four psychology courses identified in the path and have more meaningful conversations with trained and experienced counselors and counselors.

MiTransfer Pathways courses allow colleges to focus on core, program-specific, and lower division courses. Colleges can transform these courses from a basic introduction to the discipline into an engaging learning experience where students are discipline-oriented, learn to learn, have the opportunity to engage in research or apply, and to deepen their knowledge and skills through projects, internships, cooperatives, clinical internships, group projects outside of class, service learning or study abroad.

While the explicit goal was to create MiTransfer Pathways, with over 60 institutions involved in statewide transfer work, community colleges have cultivated more meaningful relationships with their peers at institutions across the country. ‘State. There is no widget or website that can replace faculty relationships from one institution to another.

And after? The statewide transfer work has been a catalytic experience for professors, staff and administrators at Michigan community colleges. While there has been significant progress in improving transfer possibilities, there is still work to be done.

  • Data Analysis: Community colleges are often rich in data and poor in analysis. The Michigan Transfer Network’s secure area for faculty and staff provides an incredible opportunity to expand data usage, facilitate communication between institutions, and provide support for faculty, staff, and administrators to get started. the toughest conversations and the most important work.
  • Pathway Development: Leverage the model created for this project and build partnerships between Michigan Community Colleges and universities interested in creating pathways in applied degree programs and other liberal arts and science disciplines human resources in our decentralized governance structure is a profitable path. While there is still a lot of work to be done to create clear and cohesive pathways for Michigan learners, our MiTransfer Pathways framework has created additional momentum around our most important achievement and equity goals.
  • Faculty Engagement: Faculty members wish to discuss pedagogy, learning outcomes, assessment, and emerging opportunities to develop ‘kindling’ learning experiences with their peers. Rather than seeing interagency dialogues as a checkbox, faculty see the MiTransfer Pathways framework as a meaningful way to engage in statewide conversations among faculty about student learning, access and equity issues; and improving student achievement outcomes. Faculty are eager and grateful for authentic opportunities to connect, and the work in Michigan has shown promise in building longer-term structures for peer learning and community building among faculty.
  • Counseling Resources: Counselors, counselors, admissions officers, formal or informal academic counselors, reception staff, and a host of other community college staff are formally or unofficially responsible for counseling students. The Michigan Center for Student Success facilitates opportunities for Michigan Community Colleges to work together to develop stronger counseling resources that community colleges can adopt or adapt to meet their needs. By creating a repository of resources and opportunities for engagement, we expect to see informal counseling communities emerge as work matures in our state.
  • Equity: Improving transfer can be a powerful tool to increase equity. As we engage in our ongoing work, we continue to focus equity on all of our projects and work with our transfer partners to increase equitable transfer opportunities. This means not only a commitment to disaggregate data, but also a commitment to listen to the transfer students themselves and to fight against long-standing structures that raise barriers for students who can least afford additional barriers.

Erica Lee Orians is the Executive Director of the Michigan Center for Student Success at the Michigan Community College Association, where, since 2015, she has supported community colleges in their efforts to improve student success.

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