Higher Learning Commission

Collaboration With Chicago Area Community Colleges

Elmhurst College

Overview of the Quality Initiative

Elmhurst College’s Quality Initiative follows the HLC recommended topic: “A four-year institution joins with community colleges to create a program of dual admission, joint recruitment, and coordinated curriculum and student support.”

The primary goal of this initiative is to increase the number of transfer students at Elmhurst College. This, in turn, will offer a number of benefits to Elmhurst College and to our community. With regard to the College, greater numbers of transfer students will improve our enrollment and financial situation, as we are a tuition-driven institution. Furthermore, it will allow us to find high-quality students for academic programs that have availability at the junior and senior levels. Equally or more importantly, transfer students bring life experiences and perspectives that will enrich our campus. With regard to the community, it is our goal to increase access to a four-year degree for more students in this area, including improving students’ understanding of the affordability of Elmhurst College. Given that some of our programs offer an accelerated path to graduate school, we feel that we are also assisting students gain access to graduate education.

The Quality Initiative is part of an ongoing project with regard to transfer students. While we had been working on becoming a more transfer-student friendly institution for several years, we established a formal focus on transfer students in the academic year 13-14. This work continued in academic year 14-15, but is being elevated to the highest levels of emphasis in this academic year. There is no fixed end for this project, but we hope to see significant increases in the transfer student population in the next 2-3 years. It should be noted that we have already seen growth in the transfer student number this fall, as we exceeded an ambitious goal for growth.

Sufficiency of the Initiative's Scope and Significance

This project is a relevant and significant Quality Initiative for Elmhurst College because it will allow for financial and academic improvement for the College and because it will serve students and the community well. There are many community colleges in the Chicagoland area, and larger numbers of high school graduates from the area are choosing to go to a community college for their first two years of higher education in order to save money. These are students who want to finish their degree in a nearby institution, and who have commitments and limitations that require them to live close to or at home. Elmhurst College can provide an excellent education to these students which will allow them to earn an undergraduate – or perhaps even a graduate – degree. These students will bring additional revenue to the College and off-set a decline in first-year student numbers brought about by demographic shifts.

Furthermore, these students will benefit our academic programs by joining the program at the upper level. For example, seats become available in the nursing program due to attrition in students who began at Elmhurst College as first-year students. Transfer students from the community colleges with very strong academic credentials come to the nursing program at the junior and senior level, thus both increasing the number of students in the program and strengthening the academic quality of students in the program. Similarly, some academic programs, while flourishing at the lower level, do not have the number of majors that allow for upper-level offerings to prosper equally. If we can attract transfer students to programs that are currently small, we will benefit those programs and their ability to offer their courses to their majors. For example, we have recently concluded a 2+2 program with the College of DuPage in philosophy. The strong philosophy faculty at College of DuPage offer an excellent preparation to their students, and generate excitement about the study of philosophy. These students will be able to continue their good experience with the philosophy major at Elmhurst College, and will augment the number of philosophy majors here. A more general consideration is the opportunity to bring to Elmhurst College populations of students which are currently quite small. Of primary interest are international students, who bring a diversity of perspective and a dedication to academic success with them to any campus. The local community colleges have significant populations of international students, and these students are highly motivated to complete a four-year degree. More generally, we believe that all transfer students from community colleges offer an important diversity of perspectives and experiences that will benefit our native students.

Finally, we believe that a closer relationship with the community colleges is part of our ongoing efforts to increase our engagement with the Chicagoland area. We have been in discussion with community colleges about sharing speakers series, and we have begun planning for shared cultural events, such as joint concerts or exhibitions. Such events bring greater visibility to Elmhurst College, but also demonstrate that the College is committed to the communities that surround us.

The intended impacts on the institution can be described as improving both the revenue and the academic picture at Elmhurst College. Greater numbers of transfer students will benefit us from an enrollment perspective. As discussed above, this includes increasing populations of students we would like to see more of at Elmhurst College, such as international students. Furthermore, we are exploring giving transfer students incentives to live in our residence halls, which would create a more numerous and more vibrant residential life community.

Equally or more important, however, is the fact that transfer students are academically talented students who have important contributions to make to Elmhurst College. A recent president of the Student Government Association was a transfer student, and transfer students are well represented in our Research and Performance Showcase. As noted above, transfer students play an important role in joining highly selective academic programs such as nursing and communication sciences and disorders, as well as giving us an opportunity to increase numbers in small majors. We believe that we offer a rewarding and worthwhile education to transfer students, both in the curriculum and the co-curriculum, that assists them to reach their potential in the future.

Also, making our academic programs transfer student friendly has meant that a number of programs have planned for a two year cycle for students to complete the major. This move of the major to the last two years of a four year sequence has allowed for more flexibility and access to the majors for the students who begin with us as first-year students. It has also made planning for course offerings easier and more efficient by creating a standard cycle in which courses are offered.

Finally, the impact of this initiative goes beyond Elmhurst College. Making it easier for community college students to earn the four-year degree has benefits for the entire community. We also plan to encourage community college students who come to Elmhurst College before having finished the associate’s degree to “reverse transfer” their subsequent Elmhurst College credit back to the community college, allowing them to earn the associate’s degree. This benefits them and the community college they previously attended. Some of the pathways we have laid out lead to a graduate degree in an accelerated time frame; for example, we offer community college students with an RN and a bachelor’s degree an accelerated course towards a masters in nursing. These pathways allow students to earn graduate degrees while holding down the time and money needed to earn such a degree.

Clarity of the Initiative's Purpose

The purposes and goals of this Quality Initiative are several. Most importantly, we wish to increase the number of transfer students from community colleges attending Elmhurst College. To achieve this goal, we have several supporting goals in mind:

  • We will clarify information we offer on our academic programs.
  • We will more closely align the requirements of our academic programs with those of community college programs so as to, for example, better acknowledge community college coursework as fulfilling prerequisites
  • We will create new pathways and programs for students to move efficiently through their time at the community college and at Elmhurst College.
  • We will create more pathways towards Elmhurst College graduate programs.
  • We will create more opportunities for community college students to affiliate with Elmhurst College during their time at the community college, either through formal programs such as dual admission and dual degree programs, or through less formal means such as shared cultural events and speakers.
  • We will improve our customer service for transfer students.
  • We will create relationships between our faculty and community college faculty through such means as a greater presence of our faculty on the community college campuses, and through programs such faculty exchange programs.
  • We will create exchanges of programs such as speakers and concerts.
  • We will articulate more clearly the affordability of an EC education to transfer students.
  • We will continue and expand upon our program that offers generous scholarships for high performing community college students.
  • We will develop a scholarship that gives transfer students a financial incentive to consider living in the residence halls.
  • We will institute a reverse transfer processes, to allow student to use Elmhurst College credit to earn an associate’s degree.

We have several means of evaluating progress, making adjustments, determining what has been accomplished with this project. These include:

  • Tracking numbers of transfer students, including tracking students by major and by community college
  • Tracking retention and time to graduation for transfer students
  • Audits of Elmhurst College websites and information intended for prospective transfer students ¥ Surveys of matriculated and non-matriculated transfer student applicants
  • Tracking numbers of students in fast-track pathways to graduate programs
  • Tracking agreements for dual admission, dual degree, and 2+2 programs
  • Tracking exchanges between faculty or programs Tracking increases in scholarships we offer to transfer students

Evidence of Commitment to and Capacity for Accomplishing the Initiative

The level of support by internal and external stakeholders could not possibly be higher. The Interim President is highly supportive of this initiative; together with the VPAA/Dean, he has personally visited six local community colleges to meet with their presidents and chief academic officers. The Elmhurst College Board of Trustees is aware of this focus and is in favor of it. They are pleased by the progress already achieved in increasing numbers of transfer students. On the admissions side, the new Dean of Admissions is very supportive as well, and both offices of admissions (traditional-aged students and adult students) have a lead person for transfer students who is energetic and enthusiastic about the initiative. On the academic side, the VPAA/Dean has made transfer students her primary focus this year.

Increasing the number of transfer students has recently been a recurrent topic of meetings of the president’s cabinet, as well as a focus for Admissions Office meetings and meetings for the academic department chairs. A transfer student taskforce that was convened in academic year 13-14 has continued to meet, even though it met its charge to produce recommendations to the administration at the end of that year. This group, made up of faculty and staff, meets voluntarily out of their deep commitment to transfer students to promote ideas and initiatives to make Elmhurst College more transfer student friendly. This taskforce has been formally re- instated this year. The new Dean of Admissions has instituted a brown-bag lunch for faculty to allow faculty share ideas about marketing, recruitment, and admissions, including ideas about transfer students.

Equally as importantly, the presidents and chief academic officers of the community colleges have been highly supportive of this initiative. They were very welcoming of the visit of the President and VPAA, and a number of follow up events are planned, including a tour of the Elmhurst College campus for the deans of one of the community colleges.

There are several groups and individuals leading or directly involved in implementation of the Quality Initiative. The VPAA/Dean and the Dean of Admissions will be in the lead for this project, covering the academic and the admissions aspects of the initiative respectively. One of the associate deans of the faculty will assist the VPAA/Dean, just as the directors of transfer student admission in the two admissions offices will assist the Dean of the Admissions. The academic department chairs will have several key projects to undertake in the next academic year or two. The transfer student task force will also be an invaluable source of assistance and expertise.

The human, financial, and technological resources already committed to the Quality Initiative are significant and will continue to increase. As the above description demonstrates, there is commitment on the highest levels of the College in terms of the human resources dedicated to this initiative. We have already undertaken many new projects that require more of faculty and staff, including an early registration date for transfer students, quick turnaround of transfer credit evaluations, and (planned for the future) on-demand academic advising for transfer students.

We have also invested financial resources in the recruitment of transfer students. We have hired a new admissions counselor for transfer students and purchased Transferology, a software program that allows potential transfer students to view how their current academic credit would transfer to Elmhurst College, as well as providing them with information about Elmhurst College. We are in discussion about the use of further financial resources, such as additional scholarships for community college students, discounts for residence halls in the shape of scholarships, and, possibly, freezing tuition for transfer students.

With regard to technological resources, we have implemented Transferology, performed an audit of websites related to transfer students, instituted a “live chat” feature on the Admissions website, and made the transfer credit evaluation process electronic. We hope to create landing pages specifically for transfer students from individual community colleges that will provide easy access to all the information that they need.

Appropriateness of the Timeline for the Initiative

The primary activities for the initiative are (1) admissions-related, (2) academic, (3) financial, and (4) institution-wide. With regard to the admissions-related activities, the top priorities are:

  • develop dual admission, reverse transfer agreements
  • improve the clarity and utility of the College’s websites for transfer students
  • offer more information about the actual cost of attendance and financial aid

With regard to academics-related activities, the top priorities are:

  • clarify information about academic programs
  • align requirements with community college programs more closely
  • create new agreements with community colleges for programs such as 2+2’s
  • create faculty exchanges and partnerships
  • create partnerships regarding speakers and cultural events

With regard to financial activities, the top priority is to investigate possibilities for more scholarships and freezing tuition.

With regard to institution-wide activities, the top priority is to improve customer service and promote the idea that it is everybody’s job to recruit students. To that end, another priority is the creation of relationships between the staff of community colleges and the staff of Elmhurst College, beyond just faculty exchanges and partnerships.

What follows is a more detailed timeline of activities in the recent past and planned for the present and the near future. This is meant to be illustrative more than prescriptive.

Previous to Fall of 2015

Academic changes:

  • Adjustments were made to the general education program to make it more transfer student friendly.
  • The number of transfer credits accepted was increased from 64 semester hours to 70.
  • Information about various options for nursing transfer students were developed.
  • Transfer students were included in a fast-track program to John Marshall Law School.
  • A system for fast-track approval for general education courses was put in place.
  • Summer courses were offered that allow students to catch up in highly sequenced programs.

Admissions, Marketing, and Advising changes:

  • On-campus recruitment programs and overall Admissions policies were tailored to the needs of transfer students.
  • The transfer credit evaluation process was made more efficient.
  • A new Admissions counselor was hired.
  • An early registration date for transfer students was created.
  • Transferology was implemented.
  • A “live chat” feature was implemented.
  • An enhanced target market approach was undertaken for adult transfer students, using billboards, email campaigns, transit advertising, and community college events.
  • Dedicated pages on the website were created for transfer students.

Fall of 2015

  • The President and VPAA/Dean visited six community colleges.
  • A 2+2 agreement for Philosophy was reached with College of DuPage.
  • Music business and CSIS 2+2 programs with COD are under construction.
  • A guaranteed admission agreement with College of Lake County for international students is under construction.
  • We are re-examining how we give AP credit.
  • We are implementing “on-demand” academic advising for transfer students, including transfer students who commit to the College immediately before, or even right after, the academic year begins.
  • We are distributing information on the John Marshall Law School program widely.

In the Future

Some possible initiatives include:

  • Dual admission for international students with Moraine Valley, Harper, Oakton, COD, Elgin Community Colleges
  • Dual degree programs with Harper and Elgin
  • A 2+1+2 program for the MBA with Moraine Valley; a 2+1+2 for nursing for COD, Moraine Valley, and Elgin; a 2+1+2 for masters in healthcare management for COD
  • A shared program for international students learning English with COD
  • Concert and speaker exchanges with COD

Timeline Overview

 

Start Date End Date Task Deliverable / Assessment
Academic Year 15–16
Summer 2015 September 2015 President/VPAA visit CC counterparts done

September, 2015

September, 2015

Establish a year-long visit schedule for all major CC feeder schools.

done

October, 2015

October, 2015

Establish increased early registration opportunities year-long for transfer students

done

November, 2015

November, 2015

Purchase transfer student prospects names from NRCCUA

done
November, 2015 November, 2015

Purchase transfer student prospects names from Phi Theta Kappa

done
January, 2016 June, 2016 Create 2 year to 4 year curriculum plans for top 5 majors at top 7 CCs underway
April, 2016 April, 2016

Host a Community College Transfer Advisor Open House

under consideration
February, 2016 June, 2016 Create faculty-hosted webinars under consideration
February, 2016 February, 2016

Conduct a bi-weekly email campaign to those CC students who have submitted a FAFSA to EC

underway
January, 2016 ongoing Develop dual-admission and reverse transfer agreements underway
January, 2016 ongoing

Improve customer service to transfer students

underway
January, 2016 ongoing Create new 2+2 agreements with CCs underway
January, 2016 ongoing

Create faculty exchanges and partnerships

underway
January, 2016 June, 2016 Investigate possibilities of creating a shared program for international students learning English with CoD under consideration

Academic Year 16–17

Summer, 2016

June, 2017

New president and VPAA host CCs on EC campus

 
September, 2016 June, 2017 Expand visit schedule for major CC feeder schools  
September, 2016 June, 2017

Continue to expand early registration opportunities

 
September, 2016  

Add a transfer credit coordinator to Admissions

 
September, 2016 June, 2017 Add geo-fencing advertising at select CCs  

September, 2016

June, 2017

 

Conduct exploratory meetings with CCs regarding new degree programs offered jointly

 

 

 

Institution Contact

Ted Lerud, Associate Dean of the Faculty

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NOTE: The papers included in this collection offer the viewpoints of their authors. HLC highly recommends them for study and for the advice they contain, but none represent official HLC directions, rules or policies.


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