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CAEL Pathways Blog

Building Pathways to Student Success: Expanding Community College and Four-Year Institution Partnerships

 

James Thompson, National University VP of strategic communications

National University showcases its collaborative approach to enhancing MilVetFam experiences through meaningful partnership with community colleges nationwide.

During the 2023 CAEL Conference in Baltimore, one session illuminated the growing collaboration between community colleges and National University (NU) to create enhanced educational trajectories. This initiative focuses on seamless transitions for students, with an emphasis on supporting the military-connected community by providing education with the right services and resources that prioritize career preparation for life after service.

NU’s Meg O’Grady, Senior Vice President for Military and Government Affairs, and Dr. Gerardo de los Santos, Vice President of Community College Relations, captured the attention of educators and policymakers with their insightful presentation, “Collaborative Support for Military and Veteran Students: A Focus on Community Colleges and Four-Year Institutions.”

Partnering with Community Colleges
Community colleges serve as a critical gateway for a diverse student population, including those transitioning from high school, seeking career changes, or enhancing skills for job advancement. NU recognizes the critical role these institutions play in offering personalized attention, flexible learning environments, and a diverse set of programs.

2022 American Association of Community College’s Hall of Fame inductee Dr. de los Santos—who has been at the forefront of attainment strategies—stressed the importance of taking a grounded and authentic approach to building partnerships and articulation agreements.

  • Be accessible. As an open access institution, NU utilizes year-around, four- and eight-week courses with online modality to flexibility fit into irregular schedules
  • Be affordable. For example, NU offers transfer scholarships to qualified students in California which can help reduce their tuition by 46 percent.
  • Be transparent. Create program pathways that are clear to transfer students and help them to reduce expenses, time to a degree, and increase the likelihood of success.
  • Be good partners. NU values partnership with community colleges nationwide and understands how partner colleges are measured and works to support those goals.
  • Be responsive to industry needs. NU creates pathways in specific areas—cybersecurity, teacher pathways, and paralegal studies. Community colleges are experts in serving the increasingly varied needs of communities whose students are a diverse mix of ages, races, incomes, backgrounds, and professional experiences.

Articulation Agreements: Ensuring Education Continuity
Articulation agreements are a testament to the collaborative spirit of educational institutions, placing student interests at the forefront. These agreements go beyond transactional bridges between institutions. Through these partnerships, students should be able to seamlessly move from a two-year to a four-year program, ensuring that their academic journey is continuous and valued.

Delving into the current landscape of community college transfer students, NU is seeing a wide array of programs where these students thrive. Data from July 1, 2022, to June 26, 2023, reveals significant enrollments in various disciplines:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology: 23.0%
  • Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Development (CA + All States): 14.2%
  • Associate of Science in Human Biology: 12.8%
  • Bachelor of Business Administration: 11.9%
  • Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies ITL (CA Only): 10.2%
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration: 9.7%
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: 7.1%
  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity: 6.2%
  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting: 4.9%

Understanding the Transfer Student—A Military Focus
Students with military ties face an educational journey that is far from conventional, often punctuated by the demands of active-duty service, periodic deployments, and the dynamic nature of military obligations. With her West Point education and a rich background advocating for military communities at the Department of Defense, in Fortune 100 firms, and within the nonprofit sector—Meg O’Grady possesses a deep understanding of these unique educational hurdles. She underscores the necessity of acknowledging and leveraging the unique skills and experiences that students from military and veteran communities (and their families) bring to the educational environment.

The approach to enhancing student success outcomes for veterans is increasingly data driven. Student veterans for example differ from the traditional college demographic in several key aspects. They tend to be older, are more likely to be married, often have children, may have a military-related disability, are frequently employed either full- or part-time, and a significant number are first-generation college students. Harnessing insights from data on these distinctive traits empowers educational institutions to better customize their services and support.

National University was established in 1971 by U.S. Navy Captain Dr. David Chigos. It is finely attuned to providing support resources for the community. NU is also committed to cultural competency. The faculty and staff are trained to connect with military-affiliated individuals, having undergone specialized education and training in partnership with PsychArmor.

Empowering Community College Staff and Families with Educational Opportunities
NU is also a champion of accessible education for community college employees. Eligible community college staff are welcomed with a generous tuition discount on both undergraduate and graduate programs, coupled with a scholarship specifically for those pursuing doctoral studies. Their commitment to education extends beyond employees to include families. NU offers scholarships for the spouses and dependents of community college staff that significantly reduce tuition costs for both bachelor’s and master’s courses and provide notable savings for doctoral studies.

Building A Unified Educational Ecosystem
As NU continues to innovate and partner with community colleges, their efforts ensure that its community of learners is well-equipped for the challenges of working in the knowledge economy. This inclusive approach also reaches military-connected students and other nontraditional learners, offering them the flexibility to access a range of support services tailored to their needs, all integral to NU’s Whole Human Education framework.

Ultimately, the academic journey for all transfer students is about respecting and recognizing the student’s point-of-view and then demonstrating readiness to support those unique needs. Community colleges lay an important groundwork, articulation agreements build the bridge, and four-year institutions like NU must raise the pillars of quality and affordable education that also provides ample support services to empower students to learn and thrive. This requires constant assessment, communication, and collaboration to ensure that the transition between community college and the four-year institutions ultimately creates acceleration lanes, not barriers, on the pathway to possibility.

 

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