KALAMAZOO—Leaders of five Michigan higher education institutions met Dec. 4 to formally sign a series of agreements that will make it easier for their students to earn a critical credential that will help them throughout their careers.
The presidents of four community colleges with close ties to Western Michigan University visited the WMU campus to sign reverse transfer agreements that will allow students to begin their studies at the community college level, transfer to WMU and still earn an associate degree using WMU credits to complete their degree requirements.
These four presidents met with WMU Provost Timothy Greene for a special signing held at WMU’s Gilmore Alumni House:
• Glen Oaks Community College President Gary Wheeler,
• Kellogg Community College President Dennis Bona,
• Lake Michigan College President Robert Harrison, and
• Lansing Community College President Brent Knight.
Reverse transfer agreements, WMU’s Greene says, are a way to honor the college choices and paths students follow and ensure they receive the maximum benefit from both their time at their community college and at WMU.
“We want them to have the flexibility of entering the job market whenever they wish and to have a resume that reflects the community college credentials they’ve earned as they work to complete a four-year degree,” Greene says. “This is about our institutions showing our joint commitment to our students and their success.”
The flexibility afforded by the agreements is important to many students, notes Glen Oaks’ Wheeler.
“Students often enter the work force prior to completing their four-year degree,” Wheeler says “The agreement demonstrates the commitment on the part of both institutions to support student success while enhancing the student’s attractiveness in the job market.”
The agreements are tailored to each institution, but they generally allow a student who has earned at least 30 credits at their community college to apply as many as 30 WMU credits toward completing an associate degree, which typically requires around 60 credits.
KCC’s Bona called the initiative an easy one to support.
“Anything that is as student centered as this is something we’re going to get behind,” Bona says. “Right now, students are leaving an important credential on the table, and this addresses that in a way that is focused squarely on our students’ needs.”
Combined, the four community colleges represented at the Dec. 4 signing send about 300 transfer students to WMU each fall. Many transfer students have completed their associate degree requirements before they transfer, but many have not. The University has been working with its community college partners to find ways to make those transfer transitions more seamless and allow students to derive the maximum benefit of each part of their collegiate experience.
“Increasingly, graduates with all kinds of degrees will be assembling credits in a variety of ways to earn the credentials they need,” LCC’s Knight says. “That is the future, and Michigan needs more degree completion at every level.”
LMC’s Harrison called the agreement he signed one that “will clearly benefit our students.”
“This is a good step to increase the competitive nature of our work force and boost the number of people in our county who have a degree,” he says. “We’re very pleased to be a partner with the University in this.”
With the Dec. 4 signing, a total of seven community colleges have inked reverse transfer agreements with WMU.