DACC does this by offering associate degrees designed to be seamless with university programs already in place at NMSU: early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, public health, pre-business, hospitality services management, criminal justice, and surveying technology. In addition, NMSU’s bachelor’s degree in applied studies was recently redesigned to more effectively support students with workforce associate degrees interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree. And finally, several of DACC’s workforce programs, including pre-architecture and dental hygiene, are closely articulated with bachelor’s degree programs at other regional universities.
Over time, DACC and NMSU faculty have worked together on these pathways to ensure that students can develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed as they progress to a bachelor’s degree. Students who start and stay on these paths do not experience “credit leakage,” essentially taking courses at the community college that either don’t transfer to the university or don’t count for the major. Intentionally designed transfer programs are essential to support community college students in their quest for bachelor’s degrees.
DACC also offers Associate of Science and Associate of Arts degrees. While not predesigned to sync with specific programs, they do provide students interested in other majors at NMSU — biology, psychology, mathematics, and theatre, for example — with the opportunity to start at the community college and make progress toward a bachelor’s degree. In these cases, it is critical that students work closely with advisors. I have heard more than one advisor ask students to envision their bachelor’s degree and then work “backward” to build a degree plan that capitalizes on both community college and university resources.
To serve the students through transfer pathways takes work. Community colleges need to double down on their efforts to ensure that students interested in bachelor’s degrees actually get to the university. Faculty and staff at both community colleges and universities need to engage with each other to ensure that barriers — curricular, administrative, financial — are minimized.
The NMSU System has implemented several programs that illustrate the kind of work that must be done to support transfer students. One is the “Aggie Pathway,” a program that provides advising and peer support for students at NMSU community colleges interested in transferring to NMSU. Another is the STAR program, which offers significant advising, academic, and financial support to DACC students whose goal is to transfer an Associate of Science or Associate of Science in General Engineering to NMSU’s College of Engineering.
Good transfer pathways are a “win/win/win” proposition. Several years ago, the Community College Research Center out of Columbia University summarized multiple studies that showed that community college transfers do well when they arrive at universities: data showed that they graduate at rates similar to, and in a number of cases, better than, students who start at four-year institutions. But students aren’t the only winners. Universities gain students who have an excellent chance of graduating. And taxpayers and lawmakers are assured that state dollars are effectively and efficiently used to broaden educational attainment in communities they care about.
Monica Torres is president of Doña Ana Community College.
To learn more, visit https://dacc.nmsu.edu/.
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