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2012 February 20 - 12:00 am

TRACKING TRENDS : Community College Grads Fare Well at University of Wyoming

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming community college students who transfer to the University of Wyoming do much better if they first earn an associate degree at the two-year college.

“In fact, those who wait to get an associate degree and come down do as well as UW students who start here from the beginning,” Mike Massie, special assistant to the UW president, said. “They provide good preparation for students who eventually want to go on and get a four-year degree. Students are not penalized, in other words, for going to a community college.”

Those who transfer during their freshman or sophomore years at a community college do not fare as well and tend to have higher dropout rates, Massie said.

UW recently decided to toughen its admission standards because of concerns about the number of high school graduates not ready for university courses and environment. Attending a community college is one way for students to better prepare themselves for the university.

James Rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, said community college students transfer to UW for a number of reasons and the community colleges do what they can to help the students make good decisions on their college career path.

“One of the techniques that I think is employed is to provide as much guidance and mentoring of the students throughout the course of the time they’re on campus at one of the colleges to make sure that they’re fully apprised of their options and some of the consequences of decisions they make,”Rose said.

Wyoming has seven community colleges. In the fall of 2010, 690 community college students transferred to UW. The majority, 350, transferred after completing two years while 213 transferred either in the freshman or sophomore years.

According to UW data, transfers who enter UW after completing two years of study at a community college end up graduating from the university with an average 2.91 GPA. Community college students who transfer in their freshman year end up with a 2.36 GPA average and those who transfer in their sophomore year end up averaging 2.30.

“It’s as much as a half grade off if they were to transfer here before they got their associate’s degree,” Massie said.

In addition, UW students with a community college associate degree have a slightly higher graduation rate than students who start as freshman at UW, he said.

Massie said he believes students with a community college associate’s degree do better because they are more mature when they enter UW.

“They learn how to learn, they’re taught good academic skills that transfer well to the University of Wyoming and give them a better chance of succeeding once they get here, once they’ve had that two years of academic experience at a community college,” he said. “... Whereas students who go to a community college and transfer earlier than that are lagging behind their peers when they show up here at UW.”

Rose said he thinks transfer students have developed a commitment to a college education after completing two years of community college study.

“I think the kind of experience they bring to that education when you go over to Laramie is something that’s going to assist you because you’ve figured out how to manage your time and you’re serious about your education and in many cases you may be paying for it,” he said.

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