Black colleges and two-year schools try to come together to create a network of seamless education for minority students
Several years ago, officials at San Francisco City College here began the African American Achievement Program, aimed at encouraging more of the school’s Black students to transfer to four-year schools.It started out pretty small. But it was the beginning of something very big.“The response we got from it was overwhelming,” says the college’s president, Dr. Phillip R. Day.As part of the program, college officials began to work out articulation agreements with a number of historically Black colleges. After a front-page San Francisco Chronicle story on the program, Day says his office was deluged with phone calls from people who wanted to know more. He says that’s when it occurred to him: Why hadn’t they done this on a large scale before?The urban two-year school boasts a large number of African American students — close to 11.5 percent of the school’s nearly 30,000 students are Black. Minority access to local universities was shrinking thanks to the statewide ban on affirmative action in college admissions. So, Day thought, why not see how successful the program could be at getting some students to go to HBCUs?Day says he personally picked up the phone and called college presidents across the country. They all liked what they heard.So last fall, 35 HBCU representatives — 15 of them presidents — came to Mayor Willie Brown’s office and negotiated formal articulation agreements with San Francisco City College. “After that meeting, I thought, if we were able to do this pretty easily, imagine what we could do on a large scale,” Day says.So he decided to take the lead and form a national movement to increase transfer agreements among the two types of institutions. After all, both serve very similar student populations, creating very important higher education access points for minority students snubbed by more elite universities. Both are known for fostering a nurturing and supportive learning environment crucial to Black student success. And together, community colleges and HBCUs graduate an overwhelming majority of Black students.Day’s efforts gelled even further this past spring at the American Association of Community College’s annual convention in Washington, D.C. There, a group of nearly 70 concerned presidents and other higher education officials gathered to see if they could put some muscle behind this national articulation movement.Many of the officials pledged to sign agreements. They started working out logistics such as grade-point-average requirements and financial support for students. “We came away from that meeting with a strong affirmation,” Day says.At the meeting, several task forces were formed. These groups will lobby for financial support, gauge interest, determine students’ obstacles, form a national research initiative between community colleges and HBCUs and track the number of two-year college students who transfer to four-year schools on a national basis, among other things.They also filed a grant application with the Ford Foundation with an eye toward supporting student scholarships and to defraying other costs the initiative will require.“This is the neglected majority we’re targeting here,” Day says. “Too many African American students don’t see going on to a four-year school as part of their dream. We’re telling them, ‘We can make that happen for you.’“I’m talking about the students — some of whom are under-achievers, but all of whom have great potential,” he adds. “I’m not sure they will all be able to go. But we’ve had enough success stories already to know that there’s something to this.”But national experts cite various obstacles to the success of such an initiative, including location. Most Black colleges are in the Southeastern portion of the country. Two-year schools, scattered nationwide as they are, may have a hard time convincing students, many of whom already have families or lack access to the financial means, to travel cross-country.Still, this is something that is long overdue, says Jacqueline Woods, community college liaison to the U.S. Department of Education.“The system set [community colleges and HBCUs] up as competitors,” she says. “Really, they’ve both carried the same set of stereotypes and overcome the same set of obstacles to educate under-represented students. The two really should be partners.“There have been individual efforts over the years though,” she says.Obviously, the obstacles faced in forming this alliance will not be easily overcome. But the isolated instances that Woods mentions are small steps in bridging the gap. Black Issues took a look at some of the relationships between two-year schools and Black colleges across the country to find what measures of success have been achieved. the Perimeter routeAs a bright-eyed 18-year old, Rhonda Wilkins left her family home in Detroit and headed off to Spelman College in Atlanta, never considering a stop at a community college on her HBCU four-year track. Like many other college freshmen experiencing the shock of leaving home and being on her own for the first time, Wilkins says she floundered during her first two years. But she persevered, eventually following a winding path from graduation to elementary school teacher, then on to graduate school to study education counseling and psychology. Years later, Wilkins finds herself at a two-year college, not as a student, but as a dean at Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta. Now, she says, she believes she might have been better off starting her own education at a two-year school.“My first introduction into the whole two-year school movement was when I took a job here, and I am fascinated by this whole arena,” Wilkins says. “It is a marvelous place for students to start their educations.”As the dean of student services at Georgia Perimeter’s Decatur and Rockdale Center, a predominantly Black campus in an affluent Atlanta neighborhood, Wilkins is working to develop more formalized programs to encourage students at Georgia Perimeter to transfer to area HBCUs. She works primarily through what she calls a “reach back” program, connecting students who already are enrolled at HBCUs with students at her campus who have an interest in attending one of those schools.“Most of the HBCUs here are private institutions, and students already enrolled in them can tell our students how to navigate that kind of system,” Wilkins says.While she says many of Georgia Perimeter’s students do transfer to HBCUs in the Atlanta University Center system — including Spelman, her alma mater — Wilkins would like to see more programs encouraging students to do so. She also is trying to spread the word in her affluent African American constituency that the two-year institution is a viable option for beginning an education that may end at a more prestigious four-year institution.“I would like to see more students have both experiences, the two-year college and the four-year university,” Wilkins says. “The end result is still a four-year degree. But if we’re a stepping stone toward that end, great!”For now, Georgia Perimeter has done little to cultivate a relationship with HBCUs in Georgia and elsewhere. With a total enrollment of 14,091 students spread across five campuses, more than 3,000 students transferred on to four-year institutions last year. However, only three of those students transferred to historically Black Savannah State University in the 1998-99 time frame and none transferred to historically Black Fort Valley State University. The college does not keep figures on students who may transfer to HBCUs outside the University System of Georgia, such as Clark Atlanta, Spelman and Morehouse.Georgia Perimeter primarily feeds its transfer students to Georgia State University and the University of Georgia at Athens. Those universities regularly visit the Georgia Perimeter campus to recruit potential transfer students, according to Dr. Jeanne Clerc, assistant vice president for academic affairs at the two-year school. Among minority students — Georgia Perimeter’s student population is 30 percent African American, 3 percent Hispanic and 0.3 percent American Indian — Georgia State is the primary choice.“Unless they receive scholarships, our students generally do not go to private schools,” Clerc says. “I am not aware of any formal programs we have with the local HBCUs.”“There’s nothing formalized at all,” agrees Bari Haskins-Jackson, director of special programs at the college. “But it has got us thinking.”Informally, Haskins-Jackson says, Georgia Perimeter keeps in touch with the HBCUs through efforts such as a multicultural advisement program, which offers mentors for students to advise them of their options and listen to their concerns.“If one of the students I mentor had an interest in media or journalism, for example, I might say ‘Have you considered Clark Atlanta University?’ ” she says.Several years ago, Georgia Perimeter took a new approach to filling their teaching positions and tried to recruit graduates from the Atlanta University Center, a group of HBCUs in the Atlanta region that includes Clark Atlanta University. Some of the graduates were hired as adjunct faculty, and today 328 faculty members — 19.8 percent — at Georgia Perimeter are African American.Another public two-year, associate’s degree granting institution in the Atlanta area is much more involved with HBCUs. Atlanta Metropolitan College, a 99 percent Black college with an enrollment of 2,105 students in the spring 2000 semester, has several consortia agreements with HBCUs. One such program involves joint enrollment with Clark Atlanta University for students in the hard sciences field. Students take math classes at Atlanta Metropolitan and advanced science courses at Clark Atlanta. Another program, International Studies, coordinates with 10 HBCUs to send students out of the country.“I can always pick up the phone and call someone,” says Dr. Joyce Peoples, division chair of Humanities and Fine Arts at Atlanta Metropolitan. “I know someone on every HBCU campus.”Peoples is a board member of the HBCU Faculty Development Network. Seventy percent of Atlanta Metropolitan’s full-time faculty members are African American and many, like Peoples, encourage students to go to their alma maters — in People’s case, that’s Alabama A&M University. Savannah State and Fort Valley State visit the Atlanta Metropolitan campus for College Fair Recruitment Day. And a number of students enrolled at historically Black Morris-Brown College take English, philosophy, religion and foreign language courses at the two-year school.Atlanta Metropolitan’s institutional research office does not have current figures on the numbers of students who transfer to HBCUs, but Peoples said that many go to Clark Atlanta and “quite a few” go to Spelman and Morris-Brown.All of Georgia’s 15 public two-year colleges have articulation agreements with the 34 institutions that make up the University System of Georgia to ensure that core curriculum is readily transferable. These agreements do not necessarily apply to universities outside the public school system.Clark Atlanta University, a private historically Black institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church, offers 38 undergraduate and graduate programs to its 4,960 students. While the school has no formal articulation agreements with Georgia Perimeter or Atlanta Metropolitan, courses are accepted by Clark Atlanta “one for one” and many students do transfer from the two-year schools, according to Samuel Baldwin, Clark Atlanta’s associate director of Institutional Research and Planning.Normally, about 200 to 250 students transfer to Clark Atlanta annually, but Baldwin says the majority of the transfer students come from other four-year institutions. The university is in the process of transitioning to a new database system that will enable it to better track exactly where transfer students are coming from in the future.Morehouse College, an independent nonprofit HBCU in Atlanta, has a total student body of 3,000. Registrar Richard Winstead says 40 or 50 students transfer from two-year schools each year. The transfer students come from all over the country to add to Morehouse’s national student body.“The overwhelming number of our students come directly from high school,” Winstead says. “Community colleges are not a major focus.”Instead, Winstead says, Morehouse follows a traditional recruiting pattern.“That is under study now, with the potential to re-channel our efforts to include community colleges,” he says. For now, the school has no joint programs with area two-year institutions.Two Colleges, Two ApproachesAlabama’s two largest historically Black universities that have two-year colleges nearby with opportunities for shared resources and potential student recruits find themselves in different types of relations with their neighboring institutions.Alabama A&M has fostered relationships both with Calhoun Community College and with J.F. Drake State Technical College. Each of these colleges has a distinctly different mission. Calhoun prepares students to earn a bachelor’s degree. Drake prepares its students for the work force. But the two-year schools find themselves sharing resources, faculty and students with Alabama A&M University in Normal. Calhoun is predominantly White with about 20 percent African American students and Drake is a historically Black school with a more diverse student population that includes 48 percent African Americans and 49 percent White students. At the same time, Alabama State University in Montgomery finds itself limited in its relationship with two nearby technical colleges — one historically Black and the other traditionally White. Although A&M has developed relationships with Drake across the street and Calhoun about 10 minutes away, “we have not as many mutual relationships as we’d like,” says Exir Brennan, director of institutional research.“We receive block credit transfer from both schools. Drake is a close liaison in terms of faculty exchange,” she says. Drake exists on property donated by Alabama A&M in 1963, and discussions about merging the schools are under way. “We are hoping for even more shared resources,” Brennan says. “Drake has nursing and we don’t have allied health. Everything they’ve taken is transferable. We’ve been doing it for years, before a new state law in 1997 requiring four-year schools to do so,” she says.“Several of our instructors teach at Drake and vice versa, so up to 90 credit hours can be transferred here. It’s appropriate since our people are teaching their classes,” she says. “We couldn’t see the logic in not accepting the credits.”Alabama A&M received about 72 transfer students from Drake, while 161 students transferred from Calhoun in fall 1999. The transfer students totaled nearly 20 percent of the 1,019 first-time students at Alabama A&M, she says. Transfer statistics are usually consistent, Brennan said. Calhoun’s numbers are higher because it’s larger. “Drake isn’t that large, but it’s very convenient for students to come a mile up the street,” Brennan says. Alabama A&M has office space at Calhoun’s Huntsville and Decatur campuses, which goes unused most of the time, says Janet Kincherlow-Martin, Calhoun’s director of public relations. The office space is provided as part of a consent order resulting from a desegregation case when the Department of Justice sued Alabama. “A number of courses in our business department are taught by staff from Alabama A&M,” Kincherlow-Martin says. Each year faculty and staff from both schools have a joint reception, as part of the court order. This year it’s at Alabama A&M. Further, the libraries at Calhoun and Alabama A&M share resources and swap material. “Our students use their student identification cards for admission to Alabama A&M’s library and check out material,” Kincherlow-Martin says.The state-mandated articulation agreement makes it easier for students to transfer credits, Kincherlow-Martin says. Drake State Technical shares a bachelor linkage program with Alabama A&M, in which students can earn their bachelor’s of science in industrial technology after transferring. “And we encourage it,” says spokeswoman Vickye Hester.
“Our students receive block credit for the courses they take here and somewhere along the line they have to take some basic courses once they get to Alabama A&M. This is good for them because it means more recruitment for them, and we promote it,” Hester says.Meanwhile, Alabama State University has an articulation policy and program with South College, Trenholm State Technical College and Patterson State Technical College, says Frank Mastin, a spokesman for the university. Alabama State agrees to accept a maximum of 30 semester hours from associate’s degree programs at the two-year schools. Credits that are accepted are limited to specific core curriculum, he says.All students transferring to Alabama State after completing requirements for the associate’s degree must enroll in freshman orientation and meet the entrance requirements for admission to a program in the college of their choice, Mastin says. Beyond the articulation agreement, Alabama State shares virtually no programs with Patterson or Trenholm. The big problem with developing a relationship is that the schools are accredited by two different agencies. “I don’t think they can take on classes that are interchangeable,” says David Jones, Patterson’s dean of students. “Alabama State is under the University of Alabama system and we’re under the state Department of Post Secondary Education. We’re governed by different policies and procedures.”Patterson shares no resources with Alabama State. Jones says that Patterson might have some adjuncts who also teach at the university, but there are no agreements sanctioned by the two schools, which are about four miles apart. At Patterson, most of the 1,000 students take courses that are preparing them for the work force. “That’s why they come here. If they transfer to Alabama State, I don’t know,” Jones says.On the other hand, about six of Trenholm’s faculty members taught classes at Alabama State and two Alabama State faculty have taught at Trenholm, says Beverly Ross, a Trenholm spokeswoman. The two schools also participate in a NASA program together.Trenholm students have access to the library at Alabama State, while Patterson students don’t, according to Jones. About 35 to 40 percent of Trenholm’s students transfer to Alabama State or Troy State University to receive bachelor’s degrees. “We have written memos of understanding with those schools,” Ross says. “It matters not to us if they go to a majority institution. We just want them to continue their education.”At the same time, Trenholm and Patterson, both technical schools, have no shared agreements or resources. Both offer students different degrees because of the consent order. “Any time we can have a cooperation between schools it is encouraged,” says Bob Romine, assistant to the chancellor for the Department of Post Secondary Education.The state’s desegregation decree makes it difficult for the two technical schools to share resources between themselves or with Alabama State. The order to help desegregate schools mandated that nothing be done that would cause Patterson, a White majority school at the time, to interfere with Alabama State’s ability to recruit other students. The law mandated that electronic degrees offered at Patterson and Trenholm would both include nursing.Since the court order, both schools now have a majority African American student population. The state has talked about merging the two schools into one institution. “With merging them, maybe we can centralize learning resources and eliminate duplication and have more money flow into programs,” he says. Currently students at the two technical colleges don’t share libraries. Trenholm students won’t find resources they need at Patterson and vice versa, Romine says. “The mission of two-year technical colleges is to help students get a job,” Romine says. These schools offer the first few English and math classes that would support technical programs and it’s rare that those are transferred, he said.Drake and Trenholm were started by Alabama State and Alabama A&M, and both have long, rich histories, Romine says. Community colleges like Calhoun offer an education track that prepares students for bachelor’s degrees, and technical schools don’t.
THE Faculty Factor Winston-Salem State University and North Carolina Central University have signed collaborative agreements with neighboring community colleges in an effort to better serve their respective locales.In May, Winston-Salem officials signed a new agreement with Forsyth Technical Community College, which allows students with two-year degrees in specialized technical fields to transfer to Winston-Salem as third-year juniors. As a result, students will have the opportunity to earn an undergraduate degree with two more years of study. North Carolina Central has a similar agreement with Durham Technical Community College, along with eight other two-year schools, three of which are located out of state.Winston-Salem State has nearly 3,000 students. Forsyth Tech has more than 5,500 students. The two campuses have collaborated in the past, sharing faculty. In some cases, Winston-Salem courses are offered at one of Forsyth Tech’s satellite campuses. Both schools have employed instructors working as independent contractors who split their time between the two institutions — teaching college prep courses at Forsyth Tech while teaching junior-senior level college courses at Winston-Salem State. At Forsyth Tech, African Americans comprise 22 percent of the faculty and staff. The student body is 25.3 percent Black and 1.3 percent Hispanic.“The two schools have always had a good working relationship,” says Dr. Jerry Hickerson, Winston-Salem State’s assistant vice chancellor for Continuing and Graduate Studies. “The whole process of working on these articulation agreements has brought the faculties of both schools together to discuss the best ways to make this work so that students will benefit.”Susan Phelps, Forsyth Tech’s dean of curriculum development and institutional services, agrees that the collaborative effort has paved the way for Winston-Salem State to provide more opportunities for prospective students who want to continue their education after finishing Forsyth Tech. Phelps, however, would like to see an increase in the number of academic disciplines offered under the current agreement. According to the latest available figures, 41.6 percent of Winston-Salem’s transfer students from community colleges in North Carolina for the 1998-99 school year were Forsyth Tech graduates.“With the agreement we have now, it’s opened the doors for Winston-Salem State to have a larger student body because the school is more user-friendly,” Phelps says. “But I also feel there needs to be more dialogue between the faculties of both schools. That’s the best way to put to rest those myths about the differences between the college prep curriculum taught at community colleges, and upper-level college courses taught at four-year schools.“The more dialogue we have, the better chance there is to create more opportunities in other academic areas, so Forsyth Tech students will have more options when they consider transferring to Winston-Salem State. It’s all about giving students the best opportunity to further their education.”North Carolina Central, with almost 4,000 undergraduate students, has developed a strong connection with nine community colleges. The school’s scholarship program for community college graduates and its Distance Education Partnership both have played key roles in helping Central enhance its relationships with two-year schools.Each year, North Carolina Central awards $50,000 to $75,000 in scholarships to worthy community college graduates who want to attend the college. There’s stiff competition for these scholarship dollars. The awards are based on academic performance, which assures Central of attracting the best community college students. Scholarships can be renewed for a second year if the recipients maintain a prescribed grade-point average.“Our tuition is higher than what you pay at a community college, so the scholarships give students a strong incentive to come to us,” says Beverly Jones, dean of the University College at North Carolina Central. “But the real significance about what we do is the concerted effort our faculty members make in being sure that the courses offered at community colleges are such that students have a smooth transition when they transfer to us from a two-year school. “There’s a continuous conversation going on between all the schools, and as a result, there’s a higher level of respect among all the professors involved.”The Distance Education Partnership serves five community colleges in North Carolina, plus Atlantic City Community College in New Jersey, Cape Cod Community College in Massachusetts and Trinidad and TobagoHospitality and Tourism Institute in the West Indies. In some instances, Central professors travel to other areas of North Carolina to teach classes at community colleges. In other cases, instruction is done via the Internet for students who live in distant locales.Durham Tech, with 21,000 students, has become a feeder school for North Carolina Central. In 1998-99, 40 percent of Central’s transfer students came from Durham Tech, where 32.3 percent of the faculty and staff are African American. Among students, Blacks are the largest minority at 40.5 percent, followed by Hispanics and American Indians (13 percent and 1 percent respectively in adult continuing education).“We have an excellent relationship with Durham Tech because the faculties at both schools teach at each others’ campuses,” Jones says. “But there’s more that can be done. We need to keep exchanging ideas to see how we can create interest in new degree programs so we can expand the horizons of opportunity.”Like Jones, Maria Fraser-Molina, director of Durham Tech’s University Transfer Department, believes that other fields of study should be added to future articulation agreements. “Both schools serve the same communities, so expansion to include additional academic disciplines makes a lot of sense,” Molina says. “And most of the students are local. By providing a wider range of educational opportunities, which leads to better jobs, it would encourage people to stay in the area after they’ve finished school.” — Jamilah Evelyn, Craig Greenlee , Linda Meggett Brown and Pamela R. Weiger
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