NCHC Conference: UC Irvine Develops Exemplary Transfer Option for CC Honors Students

Already recognized as a leader among major public universities for the quality of its Campuswide Honors Program (CHP), the University of California-Irvine has also made a success of the “honors to honors” program that helps to guide high-performing community college students to CHP.

Before honors to honors, the number of community college transfers into CHP was extremely low, in the range of one or two students a year.  Now, 20 to 30 community college honors students are welcomed into CHP, and the best news of all is that they perform as well as, or in some areas better than, the “native” students in the program.

Successful transfer students into CHP must be nominated by their community college honors program.  At first, the CHP pilot honors to honors program had partnerships with only eight community colleges in California, but now the number has risen to 14.  To be nominated by one of these institutions, students must have a 3.7 g pa.  Then, since they are nominated in the middle of a term, CHP does an additional review when the student’s final grades for the term are available.

The honors transfer students fall into two basic types: students who are about the same age as juniors who entered the program as freshmen, and students who are older or “non-traditional” students.

CHP has tried with varying results to find ways to connect the freshman entrants with the transfer students, especially with the non-traditional students, but there can be significant differences between the groups.  On the other hand, the transfer students are themselves a part of the honors experience for freshman entrants because of the special experiences the non-traditional students have had.

Over the past few years, CHP has learned that the factors below are often involved:

–The quarter system can be confusing to transfer students who have been on the semester system.

–Study and writing skills for some transfer students may not be fully developed.

–The family responsibilities of transfer students are often very demanding.

–Transfer students may be more stressed, upset, or even depressed.

–They are also more likely to have job responsibilities.

Yet despite these differences, Lisa Roetzel, associate director of CHP, says that transfers perform as well and graduate as promptly as freshmen entrants, and they tend to be even more receptive to the thesis requirement, in part because many have already made plans for graduate school.  Transfer students also take full advantage of the increased faculty contacts afforded by CHP.

CHP advisor Mary Gillis has created a special schedule for transfer advising, including the use of paid peer advisors who are successful transfer students themselves.  The special advising also includes GRE preparation and counseling for degree planning.

The first semester advising is generally focused more on support, encouragement, and efforts to make the transfer students a part of the overall honors community.  Transfers are eligible for honors housing and priority registration, just like freshman entrants.

Since about half of UCI’s students now are first-generation college students, the matchup with outstanding community college scholars may be more feasible, as many of them too are the first members of their families to attend college.

One result of UCI’s close partnership with community colleges is that many of the best honors students from the two-year schools are choosing UCI honors instead of honors or regular admission at other UC campuses.