Hidden Gem: Norwalk Community College

With so much attention diverting to the deep, dark underside of higher education, let’s take a moment to shine a light on a hometown hidden gem: Norwalk Community College. NCC may not project much as a status symbol, but it certainly deserves serious consideration by certain high-schoolers. Surprisingly, this includes the highest performing students.

Here’s why: The most selective universities favor applicants who not only take advantage of everything their high schools have to offer, but who also pursue additional opportunities above and beyond the norm. Students who want to impress dream schools with their passion for learning should think about enrolling in a high-level course or two at NCC. Their application will be all the more outstanding and memorable for it.

NCC is, of course, best known as a place for those who are just not quite ready for a four-year college experience. This could be because of academic issues, financial considerations, emotional state, or some other personal reason. For such students and others, NCC offers an attractive pathway to a four-year college. For one thing, it maintains a special arrangement with UConn, which guarantees transfer admission to NCC associate-degree graduates with at least a 3.0. Not bad! For another, it provides a low-cost way to earn college credits before transferring to a four-year school.

At a two-year tuition cost of about $9,000, students can take care of basic college requirements on their way to a bachelor’s degree at one of America’s finer universities, up to and including the Ivy League. It’s a fact: NCC grads have been known to go onto Columbia, Yale and other highly selective schools. Indeed, many elite schools pride themselves on accepting community college grads.

Sadly, community colleges are often dismissed and even derided. That’s not only unfair, but outdated and just plain wrong. Right here, in our own backyard, is a local treasure, Norwalk Community College. Can you dig it?

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The Top 10 Schools for Transfer Students

US News: “It is not unusual for students to transfer from one college to another. In fact, according to a report published last year by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 38 percent of students who began college in fall 2011 switched schools within six years … Among the 1,187 ranked schools that reported data to U.S. News in an annual survey, the average number of newly enrolled transfer students in fall 2017 was 492. However, these schools varied widely in the number of transfer students they welcomed, with the six institutions that had the most transfers each enrolling more than 5,000 of these students, while schools at the other end of the spectrum had fewer than 10.”

“While the average transfer student acceptance rate among all ranked schools was 63 percent in fall 2017, 17 colleges reported that they accepted every transfer applicant … Seven of the schools with the most transfers are National Universities, research-focused institutions that offer a plethora of college majors, plus a variety of master’s and doctoral programs. The three remaining schools are Regional Universities, schools that grant a variety of bachelor’s degrees and some master’s degrees but few doctorates. The majority of these 10 institutions are public schools; the only private institution on this list is Liberty University in Virginia, a Christian school.”

The top 10 schools for transfers are: University of Central Florida, University of Texas-Arlington, Liberty University, University of Houston, Florida International University, California State University-Northridge, San Jose State University, University of North Texas, University of South Florida, California State University-Long Beach.

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Community College Transfers Soar at Elite Schools

The Atlantic: A new study “finds that graduation rates of community-college transfers meet or exceed those of students who enroll at selective institutions as first-time freshman. Community-college transfers also graduate at higher rates than students who transfer from other four-year colleges … For the students who do ultimately transfer to selective colleges, it’s not that there are just a few shining stars skewing the data … The greatness is everywhere. ‘Fully 84 percent of the nation’s two-year institutions transferred at least one student to a selective four-year institution in fall 2016,’ the report says.”

“These days, the typical (community college) student is likely older, or lives off campus, or has a full-time job, or is going to school part-time, or has a child, or has some combination of any of those traits. And more often, students are starting their higher education at community colleges. In fact, more than 40 percent of all U.S. undergraduates attend community colleges.”

“Foundations such as Jack Kent Cooke have been working with colleges to help them enroll and fund transfer students, and organizations such as the American Talent Initiative have been pushing to get more community-college students into these schools. Even still, the mighty few who have large endowments, a working business model, and few empty seats may not feel compelled to enroll more transfer students. Still, this report shows that if admissions officers will accept them, community-college students are prepared to succeed at any college—even the most selective.”

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Colleges Boost Transfer Acceptances

The New York Times: “Transfer students — whose challenges have often been ignored in higher education — are feeling a surge in popularity as colleges and universities are increasingly wooing them … last month, the University of California system announced that it has accepted more transfer students than ever before. And in a move that is perhaps more symbolic than substantive, Princeton University has, for its 2018 class, accepted 13 transfer students, the first such students it has enrolled since 1990.”

“Behind the new interest in courting them lies one stark reality: Undergraduate enrollment is declining and has been for six years … That is because of a demographic shift as the number of high school graduates is projected to decline over the next decade, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast. In addition, when the economy improves, the job market becomes more attractive to some high school graduates than college. As if that weren’t enough, fewer international students are enrolling in American colleges, after years of intensive growth, partly because of the nation’s more restrictive views on immigration and partly because English-speaking countries such as Canada and Australia are luring away such students.”

“Transfer students can offer the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity schools are seeking … Transfers also help a college’s overall yield (or how many students who are accepted actually enroll), something that is crucial to administrators. According to a 2017 survey of its members by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, almost two-thirds of transfer applicants who were admitted to a university enrolled, compared with 28 percent of freshmen … Another reason for welcoming transfer students is that many colleges realize that a high portion of the students they turn away are just as good as the ones they accept.”

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Private Schools Like Community College Transfers

The Wall Street Journal: “Small, private colleges have found a new place to troll for prospective students: At community colleges down the road, or even across the country … In the past year alone, more than a dozen private colleges and universities nationwide have signed deals to make it easier for community-college students to transfer in. They’re swaying prospective students thanks to hefty scholarship offers and guarantees of graduating in four years, nearly eliminating cost differentials with public counterparts.”

“The new effort marks a change in attitude for private colleges, which historically have assumed community-college graduates’ coursework wasn’t rigorous enough to count toward a four-year liberal arts or pre-professional degree. But with nearly half of all students now starting their college careers at public two-year schools, leaders of four-year private institutions say they can’t afford to turn up their noses at potential students who started down a different path and would be happy to get the two years of tuition revenue over none at all.”

“From 2006 to 2013, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation invested nearly $10 million to help elite institutions like Amherst College and University of California, Berkeley, create pathways for low-income community-college students. More than 2,100 students moved to four-year schools through the program; they largely succeeded academically, with many going on to pursue graduate degrees.”

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