The College’s welcoming of its first class of transfer students from community colleges this year follows a series of administrative changes made over the past few years and is a step towards efforts to integrate more students into pathways. non-traditional in the student body.
At a meeting last spring, faculty voted to change the College’s credit policy to allow credits from community college courses — rather than just four-year colleges — to count toward a Bowdoin degree. However, other areas of the College have long considered the changes needed to accommodate community college transfer students on campus.
An advisory group including representatives from the Office of Admissions, the Division of Student Affairs, and the Office of the Registrar, among others, began meeting several years ago to embark on an effort to integrate veterans into the college community, according to the Dean of Student Affairs. Janet Lohman. This advisory group then adapted to discuss and develop policies regarding transfer students from community colleges as well, but was unable to make formal progress until the credit policy changed.
According to Registrar Martina Duncan ’97, the gradual pressure to accept transfer credits from community colleges was largely rooted in the College’s concerns about fairness.
“We wanted to make sure that a student wants or needs to take a course during the summer or request[s] to take classes on some sort of leave, that they can access it, physically access it, because a lot of students don’t have a four-year institution near them,” Duncan said. “And then also in terms of cost, it seemed like a much better option for a lot of students.”
According to Duncan, this concern was heightened during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when significant numbers of current students left the traditional four-year college path and sought more flexibility in credit options.
“When Covid hit and we had students taking time off and needing to catch up on credits… it became even more urgent to have a policy in place,” Duncan said. “And so when the credit transfer policy was changed to include community college credits, that made perfect sense at that time.”
As soon as this credit policy change was made, the Office of Admissions began working to recruit students into community colleges. The first step was to launch a partnership with a branch of the American Talent Initiative (ATI) called the Transfer Scholars Network, which pairs high-achieving students from eight community colleges across the country with a group of twelve elite colleges of four years, including Amherst College, Williams College and Yale University.
Despite the partnership, none of the five community college transfer students this year were matched to Bowdoin through the program, according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Claudia Marroquin ’06. For Marroquin, the fact that the matches come from outside the Transfer Scholars Network reflects the potential to build relationships with even more community colleges nationwide.
“We are delighted that the students who ended up with us did not come from any of these ATI schools,” Marroquin said. “It just means there is an opportunity for us and we will surely continue some of the outreach with these community college counselors to see if there are more students like the wonderful ones we ended up with. “
In the short term, Marroquin said admissions is working to build relationships with community colleges in Maine, especially Southern Maine Community College. Admissions representatives plan to attend a community college transfer fair in Maine to further connect with local students in hopes of pursuing a four-year path.
“We’re focused on Maine because we’re a Maine school,” Marroquin said. “We want to make sure that we look at talent within the state, and we’ll see how that then progresses to other community college fairs that may be happening in other major cities, where there’s either a desire to have students from that regional or community colleges who might have specialty colleges or students more inclined to pursue a liberal arts education for the rest of their experience.
Once these students arrive at Bowdoin, the biggest change required of the College is to adapt in order to accommodate a larger cohort of transfer students. In the past, there were usually only one or two transfer students with each incoming class. This year, there are eight, including five from community colleges.
One of those adaptations is a change in the way transfer students register for classes, according to Duncan. Previously, students met with their academic advisors and a representative from the Office of the Registrar on the Sunday before classes began to assess prerequisites and submit their registration. This year, transfer students were asked to complete a survey about their academic background and interests prior to enrollment to streamline the process. Additionally, the Registrar’s Office has partnered with the Library and the Baldwin Center for Teaching and Learning (BCLT) to immediately introduce these students to campus resources upon their arrival on campus.
While the new policy requires some adaptation from many areas of the College, Marroquin emphasized the value of welcoming students from less traditional backgrounds into the College community.
“I think every student, whether it’s a community college transfer or one of our freshman admissions, has a unique story, and there’s value in the journeys that students have chosen,” Marroquin said. “Even within our freshman class, there are students who have taken a gap year or some other opportunity, so I really encourage students to not just put a ‘community college student’ label[onthenewtransferstudentsTherearesomefascinatingfolkshere”[surlesnouveauxétudiantstransférésIlyadesgensfascinantsici[onthenewtransferstudentsTherearesomefascinatingfolkshere”