In May of 2021 the boards of the Teagle Foundation and AVDF approved seven new grants totaling $700,000 to create transfer pathways for community college students to independent colleges. These grants are part of a multi-million dollar, five-year initiative to create statewide transfer pathways in 20 states that allow students at two-year institutions to complete degrees at institutions that emphasize the liberal arts.
While a liberal arts education provides many benefits to graduates (including meaningful work and effective citizenship), its role in promoting intergenerational mobility is less widely advertised. Outcome data show clearly that students whose parents are at the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution and who experience a liberal arts education have a higher likelihood than those who do not of moving to the top 40 percent of the income distribution by their early 30s.
The vast majority of community college students today intend to transfer to a four-year institution and earn the baccalaureate. However, far too few—only one in seven—reach that goal. This discouraging statistic is especially disturbing because community college entrants are primarily first-generation college students and students of color.
One important strategy for expanding access to liberal arts education and ensuring that its benefits are more equitably distributed is to promote transfer from two-year community colleges to four-year independent colleges. And yet there is strong evidence that this transfer route is severely under-utilized by community college students seeking a 4-year degree.
The grants approved in May provide planning grants to independent colleges and community colleges in Maryland, Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, Virginia, and California. In addition, the May approvals included a three-year implementation grant to the Council of Independent Colleges which will be working to create transfer pathways for students in the state of Ohio. These grants complement implementation grants to institutions in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. In addition, previously funded planning grant work is underway in Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, and Georgia.
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