Concurrent Enrollment: An Innovative Approach to Transfer Success

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Dr. Marylouise Fennell, Principal, Hyatt-Fennell

Dr. Scott D. Miller, President, Virginia Wesleyan University

For years we have written about innovative practices in higher education. In this issue we’ll discuss a community college-based concurrent enrollment model that goes beyond your typical 2+2 transfer arrangements.

Community colleges are a vital part of the higher education landscape. As of 2018, there were 980 public community colleges in the United States. In Virginia alone, they enroll close to 250,000 students each year and award around 33,000 degrees annually. About 60 percent of those graduates plan to pursue a four-year degree through transfer programs.

Unfortunately, many of these transfer programs come with hurdles, and there can be frustrations with the transition to a four-year institution. Loss of credits can add years to the pursuit of a degree, which in turn, can rack up student loan debt.

Based on years of extensive research and with guidance from The Dysart Group, in February 2019 Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU) formalized the Fair Transfer Guarantee concurrent enrollment agreement with Tidewater Community College (TCC).

Under the agreement, TCC students who declare their intent to transfer to Virginia Wesleyan are assigned a VWU academic advisor and issued a student ID. Students who have attained a 3.0 GPA at the completion of their freshman year at TCC are eligible to enroll concurrently in 200- and 300-level VWU courses during their sophomore year. And, they have full access to the VWU campus—including use of the library and fitness center, and free admission to athletic and cultural events—before they even become students at the University.

Upon completion of their Associate of Arts or Science degree, TCC students can seamlessly transfer to VWU with a minimum of junior-class status (perhaps even senior status, depending on the 200- and 300- level courses they take at VWU while TCC students). All lower-level general education requirements—including foreign language—will be deemed complete, allowing students to focus on courses for their major and upper-level elective credits necessary for their bachelor’s degree.

Another successful component of this innovative partnership is physical office space and accessibility. Virginia Wesleyan maintains an Enrollment and Advising Office on TCC’s campus. VWU enrollment counselors, who are trained as academic advisors, are onsite at TCC each week assisting students in person who are interested in transferring.

The most common questions our enrollment counselors get are about cost. Virginia Wesleyan’s goal is to offer private school quality with public school affordability. VWU’s generous grant and merit award programs—along with federal and state aid—mean that community college students don’t have to compromise. In many instances, they can enroll at VWU for less than the cost of attending public institutions.

Concurrent enrollment programs are not only valuable at the college level, of course, but also for pre-collegiate offerings. Virginia Wesleyan recently joined the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), an organization for educational partnerships offering college-credit courses in high schools. NACEP serves as a national accrediting body for concurrent enrollment programs and supports members by providing standards of excellence, opportunities to network and share best practices, and access to information about research and national trends in dual and concurrent enrollment.

Virginia Wesleyan strives to be the college of choice for those students who desire to earn a bachelor’s degree in a timely and affordable manner upon successful completion of their associate’s degree—and their high school diplomas. The Fair Transfer Guarantee community college agreement, in addition to traditional dual and concurrent enrollment partnerships at the high school level, are substantial steps toward reaching that goal.

Dr. Scott D. Miller is President of Virginia Wesleyan University, Virginia Beach, VA. Previously, he was President of Bethany College, Wesley College, and Lincoln Memorial University. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of Academic Search, Inc.

Dr. Marylouise Fennell, RSM, a former president of Carlow University, is senior counsel for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and principal of Hyatt Fennell, a higher education search firm.


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