Passport to Transfer: Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is less than three miles from the Central Indiana campus of Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana's statewide community college system. The two institutions would seem to be natural partners for transfer, but until 1990 IUPUI did not accept any credits from Ivy Tech. That changed with the formation of the IUPUI and Ivy Tech Office of Coordinated Programs, commonly known as Passport. The Passport office provides "comprehensive services for anything to help students move seamlessly from the two-year school to the four-year school," says Amanda Helman, director of the office.
Passport acts as a liaison between the two institutions, assisting faculty in writing not only course-to-course articulations but also "2+2" transfer agreements that prepare students from Ivy Tech-Central Indiana to enter specific programs of study at IUPUI as juniors. Passport staff also provide pre-transfer advising and coordinate student affairs activities that bring together students from both campuses. The relationship between the two institutions has been deepened by their participation in AAC&U's Quality Collaboratives initiative, which uses the Lumina Foundation Degree Qualifications Profile to develop learning outcomes and assessments in the transfer context. After more than twenty-years of collaboration, Ivy Tech-Central Indiana has become the largest source of transfer students at IUPUI, and those students are among some of the most successful students at the university.
One of the earliest and most important roles the Passport office took on was the facilitation of transfer agreements between the two institutions. "We work with faculty to understand not just what courses students take but why, and how that builds into a body of knowledge," Helman says. Passport brings faculty from both institutions together so they can discuss "how what students take at the two-year school mixes with what they learn at the four-year school to form a comprehensive body of knowledge."
Setting up transfer agreements has been a continuous process. Faculty teaching in similar programs and disciplines at each institution initially met to discuss curricula and even teach sections of each other's courses, or to teach their own courses on the other campus, in order to establish that the same content and skills were being covered and assessed at the same levels, says Mike Clippinger, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at Ivy Tech and a member of the steering committee that drafted the original memorandum of agreement that created Passport. English faculty at IUPUI found that the Ivy Tech students were capable of working with the IUPUI curriculum for first-year composition, which was already quite similar to the curriculum being taught at Ivy Tech. The meetings also led to Ivy Tech faculty participating in the professional development workshops offered at IUPUI. "We learned a lot from them, and they learned our students could do the work," Clippinger says, adding that most disciplines followed a similar process.
The two institutions now share a large body of transferable "equivalent courses"—courses deemed to share 80 percent of the same content—but the Passport office now works primarily to facilitate the creation and maintenance of "2+2" transfer agreements. In the 2+2 model, students complete two years of study at Ivy Tech that fulfill not only their general education requirements but also the prerequisites to enter a specific program of study at IUPUI with junior status—"not just with 60 credits, that's an important distinction," Helman says. The 2+2 programs don't necessarily include a full sequence of equivalent courses, but the courses offered at each institution collectively address the same body of knowledge and skills. Two three-credit science courses at Ivy Tech might address the same content as a five-credit lab course at IUPUI, for example. Many of the 2+2 programs offer multiple options for students once they arrive with junior status: a pre-engineering associate's degree from Ivy Tech prepares students to enter four different science and engineering majors at IUPUI.
Rebecca Porter, associate vice chancellor of student affairs at IUPUI, affirms that the Passport "serves a wonderful matchmaker role" with these agreements. If there is concern about mathematics education, for example, "we can get faculty from both institutions together to talk about how they see the sequence of courses moving forward: What are the issues? What is the content, and what ways do we teach this content? Do we let students use calculators?" Helman emphasizes, however, that her role is to "get faculty together and let them talk in meaningful ways but stay out of the way…. I tell faculty, anything you want to do to connect with the community college, or vice versa, but you don't have time to do—you need to get everyone's calendars synchronized, book a room, and arrange for it to happen—we'll do that."
Pathways to Student Engagement
Ivy Tech prefers to see its students complete an associate's degree before transferring, Clippinger says—data consistently show that students who transfer with a degree and junior status earn higher grades and are more likely to persist and graduate. But Ivy Tech serves students pursuing a variety of different pathways. Some students come to Ivy Tech because they've been "deferred"—IUPUI does not deny admission to prospective students, but instead defers them to Ivy Tech-Central Indiana with the promise of admission after the completion of a set of academic milestones, usually achieved through six to eight courses. The largest group of transfer students is composed of those who come to Ivy Tech for an indeterminate amount of time before transferring because the credits are cheaper, or because they're unsure of their course of study, or for some other reason.
Passport, working with both institutions, tries to help transfer students "see this as a smooth pathway, not one where they have a disruption," Porter says. Pre-transfer advising is a big part of that, says Tim Scully, a program coordinator in the Passport Office. Each student takes a different path and has slightly different needs. Scully works with first-year advisors and faculty at Ivy Tech to help them map the different pathways their students will take toward transfer and graduation. The two institutions also have a financial aid consortium so students can continue to receive the funding they rely on.
Passport also facilitates cocurricular and extracurricular activities to ensure that students remain comfortable and engaged as they move between the two institutions. "Part of what we're trying to do with students who start at Ivy Tech with the idea of transferring for a four-year degree is to help them understand that we view them as IUPUI students regardless of where they start to take their classes," Porter says. IUPUI hosts campus tours that are tailored to students from specific programs at Ivy Tech, so they can see the continuity of their education and begin to envision themselves as members of the four-year campus community.
Ivy Tech students also have opportunities to visit the IUPUI campus for social events. Passport staff facilitate joint meetings of similar student groups at the two institutions, such as the Latino Student Association at IUPUI and the Student Organization of Latinos at Ivy Tech, sometimes providing refreshments for meetings and reimbursing campus parking for visiting Ivy Tech students. Ivy Tech also participates in the IUPUI Regatta, an annual boat race and festival hosted by the student organizations at IUPUI. "Student engagement is essential to success, so helping them build their identities as Ivy Tech students, and then as IUPUI students, is essential," Helman says. "We try to demonstrate that there's no shame in being a Tech student—we want all of them. And once you come here you're joining a community that you already know."
A Continuous Process
As both institutions grow and their course and program offerings change, transfer agreements must be constantly revisited and revised. That process will be accelerated in the coming years as Indiana adopts a statewide common core for all public colleges. Beginning this fall, all students must complete a general education consisting of at least thirty credit hours and addressing six broad areas of skills and disciplinary knowledge. Students who began their education prior to this fall are being grandfathered in, but in subsequent years transfer agreements will have to be adjusted in light of the new standards.
Indiana's new core is also influencing the two institutions' work on the Quality Collaboratives initiative. Using the state core and the Lumina Foundation Degree Qualifications Profile as the basis for their shared learning outcomes, Ivy Tech and IUPUI are working together to develop a set of common assessments that will further refine and deepen the transfer relationship between the two institutions.
Keeping up with the shifting transfer pathways can pose a particular challenge for the more than six hundred adjunct instructors employed by Ivy Tech. To ensure that students enrolled in any section learn the skills and content they'll need to transfer successfully and graduate, Ivy Tech tries to offer support and training for all its contingent faculty. All adjunct instructors receive training in the curricula for the courses they are assigned, and each is paired with a full-time instructor or senior adjunct faculty member who serves as a teaching mentor. There has also been a renewed focus on "the community within this community college," Clippinger says. While in the past adjunct faculty might come in just long enough to teach their sections and then leave again, "we don't want that to be the way our adjuncts experience Ivy Tech," he says. "They are really critical for our success, and we don't take them for granted."
The maintenance of transfer agreements is also facilitated by a shared institutional researcher who analyzes the data on transfer students and keeps both institutions informed about changes in enrollment patterns and student performance. Most important, though, are the open lines of communication between the two institutions, Porter says. "Face-to-face conversations can address a lot of assumptions on both sides—when you get folks to talk about their disciplines and ways of teaching, the commonalities are much more apparent than the differences."