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New doors open for community college students as economy swells their ranks.

By Marion Callahan

OF THE MORNING CALL

August 30, 2009

Amanda Baranowski had her heart set on Lehigh University. But the Nazareth Area High School graduate, who ranked 17th in her class, planned one stop before heading there — community college.

”It was financially appealing, close to home and easy to commute,” said Baranowski, 22, who graduated with honors from Lehigh in May and is now employed as a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Baranowski is part of a growing number of high-achieving students who are opting for community college before moving on to four-year universities.

Responding to the soaring enrollment at community colleges, some public and private colleges are beefing up recruitment efforts, or in some cases, opening doors that were once considered shut to those going the community college route.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that one out of every eight college graduates attends a community college for part of their education, but with the struggling economy, that number is likely to grow.

”Every college ought to be looking at community colleges as a source of students since more will be going there,” said Robert Massa, a spokesman for Lafayette College in Easton. ”It’s a way for colleges to help families who can’t afford the high price of a private four-year college.”

Many Pennsylvania colleges have already expanded programs and created pathways for transfer students. Cedar Crest, Moravian and Muhlenberg colleges are among a growing number creating ”articulation agreements” with area community colleges to ease the transfer process. Lafayette is considering such a partnership.

Dickinson College in Carlisle, Cumberland County, formed a partnership a few years ago with Northampton Community College to recruit students. Lehigh-Carbon Community College has similar arrangements with four-year colleges.

”We are seeing more highly qualified students with competitive records entering the community college system,” said Kristen Campbell, director of college prep programs at Kaplan, a national Test Prep and Admissions company based in New York. ”Colleges know that they’ll get applications from community college students who may be potentially more qualified than in years past.”

Kutztown, Bloomsburg and East Stroudsburg universities are part of the state’s Academic Passport program, which guarantees admission to community college if a student completes the associate degree and other requirements.

An increase of community college transfers at Kutztown University has caused enrollment to swell in recent years, with the number of transfer students rising from 421 in 2002 to nearly 770 today.

”There has been a greater emphasis on attracting more transfer students,” said William Stahler, Kutztown’s director of admissions, who said the school launched a transfer orientation program to help community college students transition.

Private colleges are also beefing up recruiting.

Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Union County, is among eight highly selective colleges and universities across the country, including Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., the University of North Carolina and Amherst College in Massachusetts, that are expanding opportunities for community college transfers.

The schools are part of a national initiative launched by the Virginia-based Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which offers financial support to degree-seeking, needy community college students looking to transfer to four-year institutions.

”Because of my experience at my community college, I felt very prepared for my next two years of school,” said Matthew Laube of Emmaus, who graduated from Lehigh Carbon Community College in 2008 and was recruited by Bucknell, where he is now a senior. ”It is a good place to start without having to invest a huge amount of money if one is not sure of which direction they are heading in.”

Emily Froimson, the Cooke Foundation’s director of higher education, said that for too long community college students were shut out of top universities. A 2006 study showed that fewer than one of every 1,000 students at elite private colleges started at community colleges, though more than 40 percent of undergraduates study at community colleges.

”Schools were making assumptions about the kind of abilities and preparedness of community college students that just weren’t true,” she said. ”Colleges have since learned that taking community college students onto their campuses is not a risk.”

The most popular choices for Northampton Community College graduates are East Stroudsburg University, Kutztown University, Temple University in Philadelphia, DeSales University in Center Valley, Cedar Crest College in Allentown and Moravian College in Bethlehem, said Heidi Butler, spokeswoman for NCC.

In recent years, students also have been transferring to Ivy League institutions, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, she said. One Northampton graduate recently won a full scholarship to highly selective Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, she said.

”Four-year colleges no longer look down their noses at community colleges. They welcome them,” Butler said. ”In fact, they compete for them, to replace students who have transferred out, to diversify their student bodies, and because they have discovered that community college students tend to be very well-prepared.”

Colleges note that the admission process for transferring students is different than it is for incoming freshmen, whose high school grades, class rank and SAT scores typically form the basis of their applications.

”Obviously, in the case of transfers, time is spent scrutinizing transcripts of previous college-level work and the SAT is not required,” said Bernard Story, Moravian’s vice president for enrollment.

At Lehigh University in Bethlehem, the process focuses heavily on the academic resume of a transfer student, with emphasis on the cumulative grade point average from college level courses, said J. Leon Washington, dean of admissions and financial aid.

While colleges such as Moravian, Lehigh and Lafayette are taking a greater interest in community college students, there are still a few institutions that rarely accept transfers. Princeton University is one of them. Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said priority is given to first-time college applicants.

”There already are thousands of applicants whose first choice is to begin their academic careers here who are turned away each year. We do not accept transfer students for this reason.”

Getting into Muhlenberg College as a community college transfer student isn’t easy either. The Allentown college admits 10-15 transfer students a year, typically from other four-year colleges.

”It can be tougher to be admitted as a transfer than as a freshman,” said Chris Hooker-Haring, dean of admission and financial aid at Muhlenberg. ”I don’t think we are necessarily trying to be more critical on transfers, but the sheer weight of the numbers we are dealing with, and the relatively few openings, make it a highly competitive process.”

Baranowski, who graduated with honors from Lehigh University, said she was accepted to four different colleges, but felt Northampton Community College was the best route for her. She said she never feared it would derail her efforts to get into Lehigh University.’

Copyright © 2009, The Morning Call

themorningcall.com
Transferring offers path into selective colleges
New doors open for community college students as economy swells their ranks.
By Marion Callahan
OF THE MORNING CALL
August 30, 2009
Amanda Baranowski had her heart set on Lehigh University. But the Nazareth Area High School graduate, who ranked 17th in her class, planned one stop before heading there — community college.
”It was financially appealing, close to home and easy to commute,” said Baranowski, 22, who graduated with honors from Lehigh in May and is now employed as a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Baranowski is part of a growing number of high-achieving students who are opting for community college before moving on to four-year universities.
Responding to the soaring enrollment at community colleges, some public and private colleges are beefing up recruitment efforts, or in some cases, opening doors that were once considered shut to those going the community college route.
The U.S. Department of Education reports that one out of every eight college graduates attends a community college for part of their education, but with the struggling economy, that number is likely to grow.
”Every college ought to be looking at community colleges as a source of students since more will be going there,” said Robert Massa, a spokesman for Lafayette College in Easton. ”It’s a way for colleges to help families who can’t afford the high price of a private four-year college.”
Many Pennsylvania colleges have already expanded programs and created pathways for transfer students. Cedar Crest, Moravian and Muhlenberg colleges are among a growing number creating ”articulation agreements” with area community colleges to ease the transfer process. Lafayette is considering such a partnership.
Dickinson College in Carlisle, Cumberland County, formed a partnership a few years ago with Northampton Community College to recruit students. Lehigh-Carbon Community College has similar arrangements with four-year colleges.
”We are seeing more highly qualified students with competitive records entering the community college system,” said Kristen Campbell, director of college prep programs at Kaplan, a national Test Prep and Admissions company based in New York. ”Colleges know that they’ll get applications from community college students who may be potentially more qualified than in years past.”
Kutztown, Bloomsburg and East Stroudsburg universities are part of the state’s Academic Passport program, which guarantees admission to community college if a student completes the associate degree and other requirements.
An increase of community college transfers at Kutztown University has caused enrollment to swell in recent years, with the number of transfer students rising from 421 in 2002 to nearly 770 today.
”There has been a greater emphasis on attracting more transfer students,” said William Stahler, Kutztown’s director of admissions, who said the school launched a transfer orientation program to help community college students transition.
Private colleges are also beefing up recruiting.
Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Union County, is among eight highly selective colleges and universities across the country, including Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., the University of North Carolina and Amherst College in Massachusetts, that are expanding opportunities for community college transfers.
The schools are part of a national initiative launched by the Virginia-based Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which offers financial support to degree-seeking, needy community college students looking to transfer to four-year institutions.
”Because of my experience at my community college, I felt very prepared for my next two years of school,” said Matthew Laube of Emmaus, who graduated from Lehigh Carbon Community College in 2008 and was recruited by Bucknell, where he is now a senior. ”It is a good place to start without having to invest a huge amount of money if one is not sure of which direction they are heading in.”
Emily Froimson, the Cooke Foundation’s director of higher education, said that for too long community college students were shut out of top universities. A 2006 study showed that fewer than one of every 1,000 students at elite private colleges started at community colleges, though more than 40 percent of undergraduates study at community colleges.
”Schools were making assumptions about the kind of abilities and preparedness of community college students that just weren’t true,” she said. ”Colleges have since learned that taking community college students onto their campuses is not a risk.”
The most popular choices for Northampton Community College graduates are East Stroudsburg University, Kutztown University, Temple University in Philadelphia, DeSales University in Center Valley, Cedar Crest College in Allentown and Moravian College in Bethlehem, said Heidi Butler, spokeswoman for NCC.
In recent years, students also have been transferring to Ivy League institutions, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, she said. One Northampton graduate recently won a full scholarship to highly selective Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, she said.
”Four-year colleges no longer look down their noses at community colleges. They welcome them,” Butler said. ”In fact, they compete for them, to replace students who have transferred out, to diversify their student bodies, and because they have discovered that community college students tend to be very well-prepared.”
Colleges note that the admission process for transferring students is different than it is for incoming freshmen, whose high school grades, class rank and SAT scores typically form the basis of their applications.
”Obviously, in the case of transfers, time is spent scrutinizing transcripts of previous college-level work and the SAT is not required,” said Bernard Story, Moravian’s vice president for enrollment.
At Lehigh University in Bethlehem, the process focuses heavily on the academic resume of a transfer student, with emphasis on the cumulative grade point average from college level courses, said J. Leon Washington, dean of admissions and financial aid.
While colleges such as Moravian, Lehigh and Lafayette are taking a greater interest in community college students, there are still a few institutions that rarely accept transfers. Princeton University is one of them. Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said priority is given to first-time college applicants.
”There already are thousands of applicants whose first choice is to begin their academic careers here who are turned away each year. We do not accept transfer students for this reason.”
Getting into Muhlenberg College as a community college transfer student isn’t easy either. The Allentown college admits 10-15 transfer students a year, typically from other four-year colleges.
”It can be tougher to be admitted as a transfer than as a freshman,” said Chris Hooker-Haring, dean of admission and financial aid at Muhlenberg. ”I don’t think we are necessarily trying to be more critical on transfers, but the sheer weight of the numbers we are dealing with, and the relatively few openings, make it a highly competitive process.”
Baranowski, who graduated with honors from Lehigh University, said she was accepted to four different colleges, but felt Northampton Community College was the best route for her. She said she never feared it would derail her efforts to get into Lehigh University.
Copyright © 2009, The Morning Call

http://www.mcall.com/news/all-a1_5colleges.6992973aug30,0,6194770.story

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