Student Perspectives on Transition from Community College A.A.S. Programs to University
Pyka, Jerry Alan
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The global employment market demands an increasingly well prepared work force. Consequently, this trend is echoed in community college graduates transferring to four- year institutes. From 2009 to 2011, over 28,000 students who graduated with an associate’s degree from a community college in the State of Texas transferred to a four-year university also in the State of Texas (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2013). Among those transferring students, very few community college graduates with an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree transferred to four-year institutions. A report by the Transfer Issues Advisory Committee (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2001) identified issues that prevent or create obstacles for those A.A.S. students attempting to transfer from a community college to a four- year university: this includes, for example, policy issues, procedures and advisory support. Literature indicates that the issues and challenges confronting A.A.S. transfer students included complicated class transcripts, lack of knowledge pertaining to the process and admissions requirements (Ellison, 2004; Phillips, 2011; Sausner, 2004 Townsend & Wilson, 2006a). Along with these potential difficulties, A.A.S. transferring students must determine if the new receiving university will accept their earned credits, and if those accepted fit into a four-year degree plan (Boswell, 2000; Cejda & Rhodes, 2004). A perceived problem by transfer students is that both institutions need to improve the transfer process (Townsend & Wilson, 2006b). The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of A.A.S. degree students’ challenges and experiences of the transfer period from community college to a four-year research-intensive university. The study participants were 18 transfer students from a large community college in Texas. Participants varied in age, ethnicity, and gender. To understand the challenges of A.A.S. transfer students, a qualitative approach was selected because it allows important insights to emerge from the student perspective. Symbolic interaction was chosen as the framework as it is based on how we interpret our world (Willis, 2007), and it provides for “local understanding” through in-depth interviews to elicit a rich and thick description of the experiences of the participants and how they construct meaning from social interactions. The primary means to obtain data for my research was through the use of surveys and interviews with participants to gain a perspective of their experiences as they transitioned from a two-year college to a four-year university. The primary research question for this study was What are the experiences and perceptions of A.A.S. degreed community college students transferring to an articulated baccalaureate program at a four-year research-intensive institution? The interviews were taped (with the permission of the participant) and an analysis of the qualitative data were completed through the use of coding, reflexive journal and member checking. Transcribed data were coded into themes, organized and categorized. While the experiences of students transferring from one institution of higher education to another have been researched and discussed in previous literature, there has not been any research into the experiences of students with an Associate of Applied Science. The significance of this study is the examination of those experiences through the lens of the student and the presentation of those findings that community college and university administrators may use to refine transfer processes and procedures at their respective institution to make the transfer more seamless.