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CUNY Researchers to Study Community College to 4-Year Institution Transfer

Researchers from the City University of New York (CUNY) have received a $550,000 award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to  study what factors help or deter community college students who are interested in the humanities, transfer to four-year institutions.

The foundation award supports CUNY’s efforts to  diminish the leaks in the community college to bachelor’s degree transfer pipeline, college officials said.

The researchers who will be conducting the study “Community College Students Majoring in the Humanities: Transfer and Obtainment of Bachelor’s Degrees”, include Drs. Alexandra Logue, a research professor at the Center for Advanced Study in Education at CUNY’s Graduate Center; Chet Jordan, assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies at CUNY’s Guttman Community College; and Colin Chellman, university dean for institutional and policy research at CUNY.

Dr. Alexandra LogueDr. Alexandra Logue

Nationwide, over 80 percent of new students who begin their community college degree program say that their goal is a bachelor’s degree, but only 17 percent receive one six years later, according to Logue.

Within the CUNY system, that number falls to about 11 percent.

Several researchers have previously analyzed the relationship between a student’s major and their ability to smoothly transfer to a four-year institution. However, the focus of those studies have generally focused on students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“There are actually a fair number of programs to help students transfer from community college to bachelor’s degree programs and finish their bachelor’s degrees, but there’s virtually nothing for students in the humanities,” Logue said, adding that it’s possible that humanities students are “having worse problems with this transition than are the STEM students, because there aren’t special programs for them.”

In addition, Logue and the researchers believe that what’s causing the leaks in the transfer pipeline have to do with the higher education environment and challenges that students face.

“We need to make the process to the degree as efficient as possible, to get that student through as efficiently as we can,” Logue said.

During the first year of the three-year grant, the researchers will focus on Guttman Community College students by conducting surveys to determine who’s interested in humanities majors, and then evaluate all seven of CUNY’s community colleges for the remainder of the grant period.

Guttman is the newest community college in the CUNY system and is rather small, with a little over 1,000 students during its fall 2017 semester.

This makes the college a good place to begin, Logue said.

“We’re going to be doing a variety of statistical analysis of Gutman students to see who’s interested in the humanities and what happens to them, but we’re also going to be doing focus groups with Gutman students to talk to them about their interest in the humanities and where they may want to continue their education,” Logue said.

“Then we can look in subsequent years at students who transferred from Gutman to the bachelor’s degree programs and see what happens there because we believe that a lot of the difficulties that these students have is that they don’t get as much support as new transfer students as compared to what they get as a new freshman,” she said.

In addition, the researchers  will be looking at both data and conducting focus groups with students from all 19 CUNY colleges during the second and third years of the grant.

Because there is such little known information about transfer students and transfer students interested in humanities fields, Logue hopes that their research will prompt a discussion within  the higher education space about how to make the transition from community college to university easier for students of any major.

“The idea is that once we know where lots of students are being lost and some of the variables that are associated with the losses in the pipeline, that will then enable us and people at other universities to design interventions that specifically target those leaks and try to help these students” more easily transition to four-year colleges and earn their bachelor’s degree, she said.

Monica Levitan can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow her on Twitter @monlevy_.

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