Daniel Parrish’s path to college required more than SAT prep and personal essays.
After high school graduation, he was responsible for himself financially — housing, food and any future tuition. His dream was to attend the University of Washington, but costs were overwhelming.
“I know the value of a dollar. Going to Everett Community College and eventually transferring was the best bet,” Parrish says. “I worked at Fred Meyer and graduated without any debt from EvCC. Actually, I came out ahead.”
Parish earned an Engineering Transfer Associate of Science Degree which is designed for students intending to transfer to four-year universities. It streamlines the process by ensuring students take the needed, applicable courses. A checklist is provided to track progress.
“I had the same sheet for years and just kept checking off classes. Everything transferred without any problems,” says 23-year-old Parrish.
He graduated from UW this summer and will continue his mechanical engineering studies as part of their master’s program.
A 2016 report by the Apsen Institute and Columbia University’s Community College Research Center spotlighted EvCC for its long-term, successful efforts to help students navigate the transfer process.
EvCC launched a campaign in 2006 to improve the process. At the time, data indicated that of 4,000 students with intent to transfer to a four-year school, fewer than 400 eventually did. After focused effort, EvCC’s student transfer rate increased 47 percent between 2007 and 2012. Additionally, the four-year bachelor’s degree graduation rate increased 57 percent between 2007 and 2010.
“One thing we did was move towards more mandatory advising,” says John Olson, EvCC’s vice president of College Advancement. “For new, degree-seeking students, they need to see an adviser in their first year. If they haven’t after their third quarter, there is a block on their registration. It’s a good incentive to pursue advising.”
Advisers review the student’s records, ascertain fields of interest and begin discussing four-year schools.
More faculty were trained in transfer advising and additional web-based resources were created. A degree audit checklist — such as the one Parrish used — were made more widely available.
According to Olson, many programs — such as engineering, nursing and pre-med — already offered comprehensive transfer advising and had close working relationships with many four-year schools. EvCC’s goal was to implement similar efforts across all disciplines and with increased uniformity.
More efforts are on the horizon. This summer, EvCC was one of five Washington state colleges to receive a a $500,000 Guided Pathways grant from College Spark Washington and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
Guided Pathways is an evidence-based system that helps students determine their field of study and simplifies course choices.
The result benefits students whether their goal is an associate’s degree, bachelor’s or entering the workforce.
“We’re looking to limit the smorgasbord of options so there aren’t so many confusing choices. We want to work harder to guide students down the correct pathways. That includes not only course advising, but also student services and financial guidance,” Olson says.
EvCC is also implementing the concept of a “meta major.”
Even if a student only expresses an inclination toward broad categories — general sciences or arts — that will be used as a first step toward narrowing choices. EvCC does not want any student falling through cracks of being categorized as “completely undecided.”
Olson foresees a five-year time frame for wider implementation of Guided Pathways.
Diane Brown, psychology instructor and head of EvCC’s Social Sciences department, began Guided Pathways data collection in April.
She surveyed Washington’s five major public universities and 13 private state universities regarding their psychology department offerings. Information ranged from degree options to deadlines, specific class requirements and how transfer credits are applied.
“I often found myself answering student questions that were questions I had myself,” Brown says. “As I was combing through university websites and navigating who to contact for answers, it was sometimes a challenge even for me. Imagine if you’re an undergrad student just starting out.”
The result, Guided Pathways Start to Finish Psychology Majors, distills her findings into an easy reference guide that includes a school-by-school comparison chart. An abbreviated version for students will be available online by this fall. A more detailed version will be provided internally to advisers.
Four-year universities appreciate close collaborations with community colleges such as EvCC. Western Washington University is a primary transfer school for EvCC. Approximately 33 percent of all new Western students are transfers.
“Especially for institutions like Western that are competitive (for acceptance), we’re more likely to admit students who are prepared to enter seamlessly,” says Jeanne Gaffney, Western’s associate director of Admissions and interim international admissions adviser.
Western offers more than 160 majors, so advance planning is critical.
“There is a tendency to think of two- and four-year degrees as sequential, but the planning really needs to overlap,” Gaffney says. “There are things students can do during community college that greatly helps navigate the four-year experience.”
A reverse transfer program is another enticing option.
Some students transfer from community to a four-year college before completing their associate’s degree. In those cases, students can complete the remaining courses at the four-year institution and transfer the needed credits to their previous community college to fulfill their associate’s degree.
“Washington is a great state for students pursuing transfers. Two- and four-year institutions are very cooperative,” Gaffney says.
The end result is widening educational opportunities for as many students as possible.
Parrish is the first in his family to graduate from college, but likely not the last.
“My older brother is following in my footsteps. He’s at EvCC pursuing engineering on the same path,” Parrish says. “Community college is just so great for people who need that support and for a lower price.”