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for advising and transfer programs. “Our average transfer student is 28. They are typically commuter students who are working or raising a family.” The university, which takes about 20

percent of the state’s transfer students each year, has established a number of ways to help transfer students, including offering online classes and a letter of intent that allows students to lock in ODU’s cur- rent requirements to ensure their credits transfer. All three schools are launching

“There is a strong relationship between the Virginia Community College System and Mason,” says David Burge, vice president for enrollment management at GMU.

improve degree and credentialing comple- tion. The goals include better career exploration for students at the beginning or their academic careers, better advising and better technology to do both. This year the budget passed by the

General Assembly provided additional funding for the new standards and for upgrading technology to help students explore their career plans earlier. “We want them to understand what the job oppor- tunities are, what the costs of the lifestyle they want are and what sort of degree or credential it would take,” says Finnegan. “Knowing where you want to end up helps in that planning, and it also helps your advisers to provide you with better information.”

Virginia’s transfer magnets For their part, some of Virginia’s four-

year colleges have made it a major part of their mission to attract transfer students. Together, George Mason University, Old Dominion University and VCU attract two-thirds of all students transferring from two- to four-year public institutions. “There is a strong relationship

between the Virginia Community College System and Mason,” says David Burge, vice president for enrollment management at GMU. “We want transfer students here, and I don’t believe that message is univer- sal [among all Virginia colleges].” George Mason University accepts the most transfer students of any of Virginia’s

66 AUGUST 2016

public institutions — more than 3,000 a year — making up about 27 percent of those transferring from a two-year to a four-year public school, according to SCHEV research. Schools like Mason, VCU and ODU

have recruitment and advising services for transfer students to help students before and after the transition. The universities are encouraging their students to complete school as efficiently as possible, while rec- ognizing that transfer students often lead very different lives than students starting their four-year degree right out of high school. “They often have part-time jobs, or they have a family, and they need to live at home or in the apartment they have,” says Seth Sykes, an associate vice provost for the Division of Strategic Enrollment Management at VCU. In Northern Virginia, George

Mason, Northern Virginia Community College and eight K-12 public school systems work together in a program called Pathway to Baccalaureate. The nationally recognized program helps students from challenging backgrounds transition from high school to community college and then on to complete a degree at Mason. (For more information, see Page 96.) In addition to recruiting transfer

students, ODU holds socials such as Transfer Tuesdays to connect transfer stu- dents, prospective students and professors. “These aren’t your typical students,” says Sandy Waters, ODU’s executive director

campaigns to encourage all students — including transfer students — to take 15 credits a year to help them graduate on time. “I would say the biggest benefit to

getting out in four years is financial,” says Sybil Halloran, also an associate vice provost of VCU’s Division of Strategic Enrollment Management. “The longer you’re in school, you’re not only paying for that school, but you’re not in a full-time job. You could be taking out additional loans. The longer you’re in school, the more money you’re spending.” For her own path, Falzone is taking

VCU’s advice — again — to heart. Even though she still works 30 hours

a week as a digital marketing assistant at a car dealership in Henrico County, she’s on track to graduate next May, two years after she transferred to VCU. To manage competing activities, she’s

using night classes and summer and winter sessions to earn required credits. In addi- tion to the time spent at work and school, she’s also joined organizations, including VCU’s Business Student Ambassadors and the VCU chapter of the American Marketing Association, where she serves as vice president. Falzone admits that the transition

to VCU wasn’t easy — the large lecture classes and testing style took some adjust- ment. She also faces a bit of a generation gap with younger students. But without the ability to spend part

of her education at community college, a bachelor’s degree would have been out of her reach. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford four years at a university,” she says. “Now I’m at a university that is more expensive, and starting in community col- lege has made it possible for me. It wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”

Photo by Mark Rhodes

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