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Summit between the U and SLCC focuses on transfer student success

Salt Lake Community College President Deneece G. Huftalin (left) and University of Utah President Taylor Randall (right) discussed ways to help transfer students better succeed at the U during a summit on March 31.

Leaders from the University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College gathered on March 31 as part of continuing joint efforts to foster a “transfer receptive culture” at the U and a “transfer sending culture” at SLCC.

Transfer students make up a significant portion of the U’s student body. In any given year, a  quarter of all new students at the U have transferred from other schools. SLCC transfer students account for about 35-40% of all transfer students at the university.

“A transfer receptive culture is the intention of making sure that the services provided at the university welcome and embrace the experience of these students,”  said keynote speaker Alfred Herrera, the director of the Center for Community College Partnerships at the University of California Los Angeles. “Transfer students come from a variety of places. They are not the same.”

With 35-40% of all students who transfer to the U coming from SLCC, the community college is one of the University of Utah’s most important partnerships, said U President Taylor Randall.

The March Transfer Summit is the fourth such meeting held between the University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College. Starting in 2019, the meetings provide an opportunity for educators and leaders at each institution to make sure the needs of transfer students are being met.

“From the University of Utah’s perspective, our relationship with Salt Lake Community College is by far our single-most important institutional partnership,” said University of Utah President Taylor Randall.

For SLCC graduates who want to continue their education beyond their associate degree, the partnership between the two schools is imperative, said SLCC President Deneece G. Huftalin.

“The U by far is the university of choice for our students,” Huftalin said. “Most of our students are geographically bound. They are working. They have families. They are here in Salt Lake County.”

SLCC students are often geographically bound to Salt Lake County, the school’s President Deneece G. Huftalin said. Because of this, they need to be able to access the U.

“They are not going to go live in the dorms at Utah State and go to fraternity parties. That is not who they are,” she added. “They are going to stay right where they are and they are going to come to the U. They need access to you.”

Each year, about 2,600 students graduate from SLCC with a transfer-focused associate degree, Huftalin said. Of those students, 70% transfer to four-year institutions and 40% of those students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. Leaders at the community college are working to increase the number of students who complete their bachelor’s to 60%, but the number hasn’t moved much over the past few years, she said. Partnerships with schools like the U are key to successfully increasing that number.”

When it comes to helping more transfer students succeed, both presidents say the pathways to degrees and certificates need to be clearer to students at earlier ages. They also believe pathways need to be designed for people rather than careers.

“I think what we have not done well enough is making sure the pathways through all of our institutions will fit into the lives of students,” Randall said.

Leaders at the U and SLCC are working to streamline educational pathways in many ways, including the U West Valley partnership, which will focus on the stackable credentials needed for individuals to pursue a medical career while working, and the new shared campus in Herriman where students can earn associate and bachelor’s degrees in one location.

“Creating a successful pathway is really stopping for a second and understanding what individuals need to fit into their life in addition to their education,” Randall said.

Creating a transfer-receptive culture at the U means making sure transfer students have the unique resources they need to succeed.

In addition to improving the pathways to help students earn degrees and certificates, university and college leaders say ensuring transfer students who come to the U have resources that are specific to their needs is another way to increase success. At the March 31 summit, Herrera shared solutions implemented at UCLA, such as creating a commuter student center with space for students who did not live on campus to rest and study between classes, financial and academic support programs, and a center for students with dependents to access support.
“The most important thing is to make sure the resources are intentional,” he said.