October 2022
Jennifer Searles
Jenn Searles, director of transfer pathways and partnerships, St. Catherine University

College students have a lot to stew over when it comes to selecting majors and choosing courses. It’s even more complicated for community college students if they want to move on and transfer to different colleges to earn bachelor’s degrees.

"Students worry about what's needed to complete a degree, whether at the associates or bachelor's level," said Jenn Searles, director of transfer pathways and partnerships, St. Catherine University. “Especially for first-generation students who may not have had family members go through the admission process, it can feel overwhelming trying to navigate every detail.”

Twelve private colleges and universities in Minnesota took new steps this month to boost the confidence of potential transfer students, to help them see more clearly how transferring can work out. The creation of a new Transfer Admission Guarantee, for example, means that students can see early on what kind of grades are needed to get into each of the colleges.

“For many students they find the transfer process confusing and complicated,” Searles said. “The great thing about the Guarantee is it takes some of that uncertainty out of the picture. They can see, ‘I have the needed requirements.’ It takes some of the worry out of it.”

Irina Makarevitch
Irina Makarevitch, associate provost for accreditation and compliance, Hamline University

Announced in October, the new Transfer Admission Guarantee lets students who are working on an Associate of Arts (AA) degree and the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC) see how they can be assured admission at the 12 participating institutions. Required cumulative grade point averages range from 2.0 to 3.0; there are per-course GPAs and other requirements set by the colleges. Visit mnprivatecolleges.org/transfer-guarantee for details.

“The Transfer Admission Guarantee is about helping students understand their options and making it easier for them to earn a four-year degree at private colleges in Minnesota,” said Paul Cerkvenik, president of the Minnesota Private College Council.

It’s important for community college students to know that they’re seen as ready to do higher level work at private colleges, noted Irina Makarevitch, Hamline University’s associate provost for accreditation and compliance. And that’s one benefit of the new Transfer Admission Guarantee, which makes it clear to students at community colleges who are considering their options.

“We’re saying you’re not at a disadvantage, that you’re ready to succeed at our higher-level courses,” Makarevitch said. “You’re welcome here and we’ll make certain our courses fit your needs.”

New efforts to map out path to majors

Another new offering for community college students are new pathways that map out their coursework for specific majors. The 12 participating private colleges created and are posting pathways from specific community colleges to their institutions for psychology majors; 90-some pathways were posted in October.

For students, it’s all about greater transparency, Makarevitch said. The pathways will help students see clearly just how their community college courses will be received and work towards their intended major, along with showing just what will be required for higher level coursework at the private colleges, she said.

The pathway documents lay it out clearly, Searles said, helping students get the complete picture they need, showing “here is what I need to complete at my community college and here’s what I’ll be taking at the four-year college,” The result? “It is this amazingly detailed plan showing that with the help of advisors and faculty at both schools we can keep students on track and completing their bachelor’s degrees,” she said.

New pathways are being ironed out among the 12 for five other majors, with a focus on biology this fall.  And several institutions have created others on their own, all of which are listed on the Council’s pathway listing. Community college students are already familiar with these kinds of pathways, which clarify how courses will transfer and what else will be required to earn a degree; they already exist within the Minnesota State system, among its community colleges and bachelor’s degree-granting institutions for 30-some majors.

A key component of the pathway work, Makarevitch said, is helping build relationships among faculty at the private colleges and community colleges. That’s occurred with several meetings already, which the Council has facilitated. With the biology pathway planning that is underway, this has now included lab visits.

The 12 participating institutions in the Guarantee and the new psychology pathways are:

  • Augsburg University
  • Bethany Lutheran College
  • Bethel University
  • College of Saint Benedict
  • The College of St. Scholastica
  • Concordia College, Moorhead
  • Concordia University, St. Paul
  • Hamline University
  • Saint John’s University
  • Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
  • St. Catherine University
  • University of St. Thomas

The Guarantee and the pathways have been developed as part of the Transfer Initiative, which is coordinated by the Council with funding support from the Teagle Foundation and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

“Working through pathways and creating the Transfer Admission Guarantee is about recognizing all the great work that students are already doing at their community colleges,” Searles said, “the end goal is to make this process as easy and seamless as possible, we want to take some of the guesswork out of transferring.”

By John Manning