CMU rolls out welcome mat for transfer students

New initiatives increase scholarship eligibility, ease credit transfers

| Author: Jeff Johnston

If you envision incoming university students as teenagers fresh out of high school, you're missing an important part of the picture.

Transfer students from community colleges and other institutions have long been a key part of Central Michigan University's student body, numbering around 1,000 each fall in recent years.

"Transfer students bring a wide range of life experiences and perspectives to our campus, enriching classroom discussions, and adding to the diversity of our university community," President Bob Davies said.

Bob Garcia, CMU's new director for community college relations and transfer outreach, wants CMU to serve even more transfer students. He's collaborating with others across campus to launch strategic initiatives to make it happen:

  • CMU's transfer scholarships have increased in value by 40% or more and have been extended to cover a third year of study. A new scholarship is open to members of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges and academic programs, with at least a 3.5 cumulative college GPA. By combining scholarships, transfer students can now earn up to $6,500 per academic year.
  • Expanded scholarship eligibility covers students transferring from four-year institutions as well as from two-year schools, with a minimum 24 college credits instead of 56, enrolling part time as well as full time and attending through CMU's Global Campus as well as taking courses on campus.
  • CMU has joined the MiTransfer Pathways program, through which community colleges and participating public universities agree on courses that qualify toward 12 of the largest majors in Michigan. The program is rolling out in phases, and CMU's first three participating areas are biology, business and psychology, where students' community college courses will count toward their major.
  • Incoming students with Associate of Arts or Science degrees as well as applied associate degrees related to CMU degree areas will qualify to satisfy CMU's University Program general education requirements.
  • A new partnership adds CMU to the university center at Lansing Community College, one of Central's top transfer partners.
  • CMU also is stepping up outreach to academic advisors at community colleges and updating transfer guides and agreements at more than 40 two-year colleges. A new Transfer Student Engagement Committee also aims to improve the transfer experience.
  • A new website serves prospective transfer students, and CMU is waiving the transfer application fee until June 1, 2020.

CMU's Academic Senate overwhelmingly approved the new transfer policy at its April 7 meeting.

"Transfer students have always been a vital and valued part of the CMU community," said Academic Senate Chair Brad Swanson. "The Academic Senate was happy to facilitate their transition into CMU for this group of students and looks forward to seeing an increase in the number of students choosing CMU to continue their education."

A transfer testimonial

Interior design major Hallie Wolf, from Rochester Hills, Michigan, transferred to CMU in fall 2018 from Oakland University. Here's what she has to say about the experience:

"CMU is one of the few schools in Michigan with an accredited interior design program. What made me choose CMU was how I felt wanted. When I called for information, I was called back by the head of the interior design program. I came up for a tour, and they took time to answer all my questions and take me to specific buildings even though they weren't originally on the tour route. Every encounter was friendly and welcoming, making me feel like I belonged at CMU.

"I would also say those same reasons are why I feel so positively about transferring. I have been provided with countless opportunities to grow as a leader on campus and within my field. I am pushed by my professors to constantly learn and even have an opportunity to work on publishing research in my field. When I was pursuing transferring, I was scared of the uncertainties which accompanied that decision. Here at CMU, I have a family — people who offer help and support because they want to see me succeed."

Strategy for the future

The focus on transfer students is no accident.

In February, on Garcia's second day on the job in his newly created role, he said, President Bob Davies visited his office and told him, "I want a new transfer scholarship plan."

It's partly a recognition of changing demographics in higher education — even before the new challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2009-18, Michigan's annual number of high school graduates, the traditional pool of incoming college freshmen, fell by nearly 8%.

The ongoing strategic envisioning initiative to position CMU for success in 2030 and beyond factors in these changes. One of the project's five strategic pathways focuses on "the dynamic nature of the college student — both current and future," recognizing the need to serve students beyond high school graduates transitioning immediately into college.

"Faculty and staff from across campus have played a critical role in developing transfer credit pathways, improving transfer communication and bolstering the student experience," Garcia said.

"We'd like to see the number of students who join us from two-year institutions increase. These are students who bring a different perspective to our classrooms, and we value them."

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