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unnecessarily long and expensive path to earn four-year degrees. Virginia, however, has been trying to


smooth the transition between two-year and four-year schools, establishing a more affordable way to earn a bachelor’s degree. In 2006, Virginia passed the Higher


Education Restructuring Act, which gave Virginia’s public colleges and universities more autonomy but also required them to create better pathways for students trans- ferring from Virginia’s two-year schools. The result was the creation of Guar-


anteed Admissions Agreements (GAAs) between universities and community colleges. The VCCS now has 27 GAAs


between Virginia’s two-year and four-year institutions. The agreements outline specific course requirements and GPAs students must achieve to receive guaranteed transfers. GAAs were heralded as a way to save


almost one-third the cost of earning a bachelor’s degree. In the ideal “2+2” sce- nario, a student would spend two years at a community college and then two years at a four-year school. The potential savings are substantial. The 2+2 scenario could save students


an average of $14,000 in tuition depend- ing on which institution they transfer to, according to the SCHEV study. That could increase to savings of more than $18,000 using the Two-Year College Transfer Grant program, which provides additional aid for transfer students demonstrating financial need.


Few students, however, are using the


2+2 pathway — and many are taking sig- nificantly longer than two years to graduate once they have transferred, according to SCHEV. “We know most students don’t do it on a two-plus-two scenario, and we know that they lose a tremendous economics sav- ings by not doing that, and yet they still do it,” says Joe DeFilippo, SCHEV’s director of academic affairs and planning. The SCHEV study found that 18


percent of students who transferred with an associate degree during the 2009-2010 school year were taking an additional four years to complete their bachelor’s degree. For students graduating community


college without a degree but transferring with 16 to 30 credits, that number rose to 23 percent, with another 8 percent taking


five years to graduate. SCHEV is considering researching the


issue further, potentially with additional studies. “My biggest interest would be to try to identify the factors that we could get a larger number of students to take advantage of the savings that are available to them, because those savings are very, very substantial,” says DeFilippo.


Performance-funding standards Virginia’s community colleges have


noted the same trends outlined in the SCHEV report. Each year about 22,000 students


transfer for the first time from Virginia’s community colleges to Virginia’s public and private four-year schools and out-of-state institutions. About one-third of those transfer students have completed an associ- ate’s degree. So VCCS, which oversees Virginia’s


23 community colleges, is working with its schools to encourage students to complete their associate degrees before transferring and use the GAAs if possible. “We have data showing they’re more


successful once they get to the university,” Kraus says of students who use GAAs and complete their associate degrees before transferring. “We know that more of their credits transfer properly … and we know that in building a foundation of success at


the community college they are stronger students and succeed better once they arrive at the university. “There are some that chose to move


earlier, and there’s a price they are paying for that. And it’s an unnecessary price.” So with a goal to triple the number


of credentials and degrees awarded by Virginia’s community colleges by 2021, the community college system is tying some state funding for community colleges to student success. Twenty percent of a community col-


lege’s funding from the state is now deter- mined by outcome measures. Among other measures, these include degree completion, associate degrees awarded before students transfer and the completion of a bachelor’s degree requirements by former VCCS students. “We have a lot of students who trans-


fer prior to completion of any sort of cer- tificate or degree,” says Catherine Finnegan, assistant vice chancellor for institutional effectiveness with the VCCS. “What we find is those students probably have an idea that they want a bachelor’s degree, but they might not be clear on what that goal is, and we also find they don’t succeed in complet- ing a bachelor’s degree in a level that we think is acceptable.” For the past year, the community colleges have been creating plans to


Number of students transferring from community colleges to public four-year institutions in Virginia (2014-2015)


University of Virginia's College at Wise Virginia Military Institute


Christopher Newport University College of William and Mary


Virginia State University


University of Mary Washington Longwood University


Norfolk State University University of Virginia


Virginia Commonwealth University James Madison University Radford University Virginia Tech


George Mason University Old Dominion University


0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 14


116 106 101


211 187


305 359 468


687 678


741 2,181 2,436 3,204 2,500 3,000 3,500 Source: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia www.VirginiaBusiness.com VIRGINIA BUSINESS 65


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