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Grant to ease transfer of community college students to U. of I.

Sharita Forrest, News Editor
217-244-1072; slforres@illinois.edu

10/23/2007

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois has been awarded an $899,000 grant by the Lumina Foundation for Education for a project that aims to help community college students transfer to Illinois and succeed academically.

A private foundation based in Indianapolis, Lumina strives to expand access to and success in postsecondary education, particularly for people from underrepresented groups, and recently awarded the grant to the U. of I. for its Transfer Experience and Advising Mentors project.

The TEAM project will help students from about 10 targeted community college districts within the state transfer to Illinois, and includes a specialized adviser and 22 peer mentors, recruited from organizations such as the Tau Sigma Honorary National Transfer Student Association. The peer mentors and the TEAM project coordinator will host information sessions, one-on-one sessions and panel discussions as well as online mentoring and discussion groups about Illinois and the transfer process for prospective students and their families. The peer mentors also will give intensive support during transfer students’ first semester at Illinois, which studies have shown to be critical to the success of students from underrepresented groups.

Illinois faculty and staff members in consultation with community college instructors and academic advisers will develop a virtual transfer bridge comprising key courses that serve as gateways to specific majors and courses that may not be completed at community colleges, and that have been identified as barriers to transfer students’ success. The gateway courses, a blend of online learning and classroom instruction, will be offered at targeted community colleges around the state.

Additionally, the university is examining and revising institutional policies and hurdles that impede access and opportunity for transfer students, such as the number of academic hours required for transfer and the availability of financial aid.

The Illinois Promise program, which offers scholarships to freshmen and sophomores with family incomes at or below the poverty level, is being expanded to include eligible transfer students beginning in Academic Year 2008-2009.

The Council of Deans also recommended at its July retreat to reduce the 60-credit-hour minimum requirement to 30 credit hours, when possible in various programs of study, beginning with the fall semester 2008.

Additionally, Illinois is working with community college representatives to identify curricula where two-plus-two articulation agreements could be effective and develop such agreements. A two-plus-two articulation agreement is a contract between two- and four-year institutions that is program specific so the courses of a specific associate's program have a guaranteed application toward a specific bachelor's program.

“The support from Lumina Foundation allows us to innovate as we advance toward strategic enrollment goals,” said Ruth Watkins, vice provost, who leads the project. “Promoting stronger partnerships with community colleges to ensure access and success for transfer students is a critical component of our Illinois mission. We are pleased to have garnered external support to assist the campus in assertively moving ahead in this critical area.”

The Office of the Provost is coordinating the TEAM project in cooperation with the Campus Center for Advising and Academic Services, the Office of Admissions and Records, the Office of the Dean of Students and other campus units.

The TEAM project aligns with the goals of Chancellor Richard Herman’s Strategic Plan for the Urbana campus, which include increasing transfer student enrollment over the next five years. The Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board are working with the U. of I. on the project and share the university’s goal of increasing the number of Illinois residents who complete baccalaureate degrees.