Community College Students Need Transfer Aid
Community College Students Need Transfer Aid
Yesterday the Tennessee General Assembly formally began their Special Session on education. During his opening speech, Governor Phil Bredesen proposed some sweeping reforms to public higher education. The “Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010” offers many promising ideas such as funding higher education based on outcomes like graduation rates, allowing universities to become more mission focused, and offering a comprehensive plan to have the community colleges work better with the four-year public institutions.
Key to helping a student make the transition from community colleges to the four year institutions is to create an agreed upon 60 semester hour core that is completely transferable to the public universities. Tennessee’s independent colleges and universities collaboratively work with the public community colleges to facilitate successful transfer to their institutions. Each year over 1,000 community college students transfer to a non-profit college or university in Tennessee.
The reforms being proposed are designed to provide incentives for students to attend community colleges and then transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree. The one incentive that is missing student financial aid.
Community colleges are a low-cost option for Tennesseans. Tuition and required fees average $2,800 a year - without any financial aid. There is considerable student financial assistance available for low- to middle-income families for attending a community college. If the student qualifies for the lottery’s HOPE scholarship she will receive a $2,000. If the same student comes from a low-income family she will also receive a $1,500 supplement to the HOPE, a $2,700 Pell Grant, and possibly a $1,100 Tennessee need-based aid grant. This comes to a total of $7,300 of non-payback aid –nearly double the cost of attending. Consequently, getting INTO a community college is not a financial burden.
The financial burden resides at the point of transfer. Community college transfer students need financial help making the transition from the low-cost community college system to the higher cost four year university. Many non-profit private colleges and universities offer generous transfer scholarships to help ease the cost transition to a four-year college.
There is one proposal being discussed at the Legislative Plaza to increase the community college HOPE scholarship by decreasing the four–year scholarship. The idea is to take $1,000 from the freshmen and sophomores at the universities and give it to community college students. This simply is moving in the wrong direction. Students need increased aid to make the transfer AFTER completing their work at the community college, not to get IN to the community college.
The university level scholarships should increase rather than decrease. Students who start their education at a four-year university are much more likely to graduate than those who start at a community college. Success is even more assured if students attend a non-profit college or university. Students should be encouraged to start their education where they will be most successful and graduate in a timely manner. The impact of the aid should not be decreased because students decide to start at a four-year university.
The best place to position additional financial aid is at the point of transfer – when the student is ready to make the transition from the community college to the four-year university. If there are additional funds available we need to now strongly consider this type of incentive scholarship for transfer students into four-year institutions. The reality is, however, the lottery revenue is running short of the current scholarship program demands. Consequently, it is evident that the HOPE Scholarship is currently well positioned at $2,000 for community colleges and $4,000 for four-year institutions. Whereas, the Governor’s proposed legislative agenda for higher education is both bold and encouraging, lowering the scholarship for freshman and sophomores at the four-year universities would have a negative impact on our shared goal of increasing the number of college graduates.
Dr. Claude Pressnell
Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association
1031 17th Avenue South
Nashville, Tennessee 37212
615-242-6400, ext. 201 direct voice line