The University of Colorado Boulder has followed in the footsteps of the university’s Colorado Springs and Denver campuses and now guarantees admission to all first-year, first-time students who complete an associates degree through the Colorado Community College System’s Bridge to Bachelor’s Degree Program.
CCCS started its bachelor’s degree program in 2020 and initially began working with four-year colleges like Colorado State University and CU Denver, said Michael Schulman, CCCS director of student affairs. That same year, CU Colorado Springs signed on and guaranteed admission to any new, first-year students, including students who started at Front Range Community College. Front Range is a member of the CCCS system.
“One of the main impetuses behind the program is (that) the students who transfer from community colleges to universities aren’t always using their degrees,” Schulman said. “In most cases, they leave the university, and they now have debt. We want them to have the associates degree to fall back on, but we also build in a lot of scaffolding to ensure they are successful with their transfer to the university.”
Each year, about 20% of CCCS students — or 9,000 — transfer to a four-year college or university, saving at least $8,000 in tuition by starting at a CCCS college, according to a news release from the community college system. A student planning to transfer to CU Boulder could save about $17,868 by completing the associates degree program, Schulman said. So far, more than 5,000 CCCS students have enrolled in the program since it started and 223 have graduated.
CU Boulder finally joined the program this spring and will soon reap the rewards as more than 100 CCCS students, who have enrolled in the Bridge to Bachelor’s program, have indicated they intend to transfer to CU Boulder after completing their associates degree, said Lindsay Sandoval, spokesperson for CCCS.
Clark Brigger, executive director of CU Boulder admissions, could not say for certain why CU Boulder did not join the program when CU’s other campuses did. He said he expects the campus will begin to see students transfer from the program in 2024.
“I’m absolutely positive (the program) should enhance our diversity at CU Boulder, which is one of our primary tenets that we strive for every day, so that is super positive,” he said.
When students at community colleges like Front Community College, enroll in the Bridge to Bachelor’s Degree Program, they work with advisors who assist them with course enrollment to guarantee that their classes will transfer to the four-year college or university that they plan to attend, Schulman said.
“Some of the data we looked at when we launched this program was that 80% of our students are indicating they want to transfer but only 20% are actually transferring,” he said.
“When we follow up with students, a lot of times they say they don’t know where to transfer. Part of this bachelor’s degree program is building a significant amount of scaffolding. The universities work regularly with our advisors to help them with course maps and transfer guides.”
About 900 students each year transfer to CU Boulder from Front Range Community College, said Hannah Brown, admissions and outreach director with FRCC.
Now that CU Boulder has joined the Bridge to Bachelor’s Degree Program, CU Boulder can contact the students who have said they plan to transfer to the campus to get to know them years before they actually enroll at CU Boulder, Brown said.
“I think sometimes students want to attend CU but it is not feasible right away or some students are intimidated by the large class sizes or the cost, so I think this opens up the access,” she said. “Our students get to know how things are here at Front Range and transferring to a large institution is very different, so helping them navigate that I think is really important.”
Brigger added that the program helps CU Boulder with its goal of honoring all transfer credits which helps students save money while obtaining their bachelor’s degree.
“We want to serve every student in the state as best we can because we believe that the future state of Colorado really relies upon the residents of Colorado,” he said. “The more accessible that we can become in this space, the better off we’re going to be in the future as a state.”
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