The Tackling Transfer initiative states the challenge clearly: “Few students who enter community college intending to get a bachelor’s degree ever do.”
It’s an issue we’ve seen in Dayton, Ohio. Though a mere 1.5-miles separate the University of Dayton and Sinclair Community College — one of the largest, most highly ranked, and successful community colleges in the country — some talented students still could not see an attractive path to a high quality four-year degree.
To address the roadblocks facing transfer students, we created a new partnership in 2016, the UD Sinclair Academy. It goes beyond the traditional articulation agreements we have always had in place to offer students key benefits: dual admission; completely transparent and upfront four-year pricing; clear academic pathways that allow them to earn an associate and bachelor’s degree; coordinated advising on both campuses; and even the opportunity to participate fully in the university community while completing an associate degree at Sinclair.
Recent graduate Natalie Schulte said: “I thought UD would be too expensive and out of reach for me.” That perception is not uncommon for our private, Catholic university. Some students see the UD tuition sticker price — more than $44,000 a year — and simply don’t apply. Even if they know 98% of our undergraduates receive financial aid, there are too many question marks for them individually.
The UD Sinclair Academy changes that with clear upfront pricing. When a student enters the Academy either during high school or while they are enrolled at Sinclair, we send them a personalized financial aid letter that spells out their total cost to earn a bachelor’s degree. It locks in the tuition they will pay for their junior and senior years, details their scholarships and grants, lets them know they will not pay any fees, and awards them a textbook scholarship worth $500 per semester. There are absolutely no surprises when it comes to cost.
With the financial uncertainty removed, Natalie saw a clear and affordable pathway to a UD degree. She graduated in December summa cum laude and plans to pursue a graduate degree in communication with the aim of becoming a professor.
Support on both campuses
Students also say having personal connections with academic advisors on both campuses is important. The advisors work together to help students follow one of the Academy’s 70 degree pathways to earn a Sinclair associate and a UD bachelor’s degree. Faith Takacs, a finance and accounting major in the class of 2022, explained: “Having both advisors to work with gave me a guaranteed opportunity for success at both colleges.”
Students also have success professionals at UD to coach them through challenges outside the classroom as they transition between campuses. “We’re like their co-pilots,” says Bev Jenkins, director of student enrichment and academic outcomes. “We help them understand where the resources are on campus. If they run into hiccups or barriers, we’ll help them figure out how to address the issue, as well as help them to get involved.”
The chance to get involved
Transfer students sometimes say they feel like they miss the chance to get involved in the university community before they transfer. With the Academy, they can use our library, work out on campus, attend athletic events, engage a peer mentor, or join any of the university’s 270 student clubs and organizations.
Francois Ntako, a chemical engineering graduate who now works in Dayton as a process engineer, took the opportunity to complete a faculty-mentored research internship through the Academy. “It opened many doors in my career,” he said. “Being part of UD while taking classes at Sinclair prepared me both academically and mentally to take on a new challenge.”
Strong partnerships are key
The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, HCM Strategists, and Sova identified five principles for creating partnerships that improve outcomes for transfer students in their brief “Beyond Articulation Agreements.” These ideas were central to our vision when we created the UD Sinclair Academy.
The positive student outcomes we have seen would not be possible without strong relationships between Sinclair and University of Dayton from all areas of our campuses, including financial aid, the registrar’s offices, the advisors, deans, department chairs, and faculty. These groups worked together for two years to create the Academy, and a joint committee continues to meet to add new academic pathways and address other issues.
We are proud of the difference the Academy is making in the lives of students and in the educational ecosystem of our region. Of the 102 students who have transferred to UD through the Academy, nearly 94% have graduated or remain enrolled pursuing their bachelor’s degrees. UD’s collaboration with Sinclair continues to generate new academic opportunities that neither school could accomplish on its own. For instance, in 2019 we launched a joint Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, building upon Sinclair’s top-rated associate degree in nursing and drawing upon UD’s growing capacity in the health sciences. When we work together as institutions, we can clear the roadblocks that stop too many talented, ambitious students from achieving their goals.
Paul H. Benson
Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs
University of Dayton