ACC Transfer Students Benefit from Partnership with Southwestern University

Nearly 50 low-income students attending Austin Community College will have the opportunity to further their education at Southwestern University thanks to a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

The grant will enable Southwestern to enroll 12 students a year from ACC for the next three years. Each group, or “cohort,” will be supported by a strong network of services to help them complete college and earn a bachelor’s degree.

Each cohort will participate in group seminars and will work together on civic engagement projects for team-building and academic enrichment. Southwestern also will sponsor week-long academic programs for the students during the summer. Students who enter the program during the first year will serve as peer mentors for students entering the program in the following years.

Southwestern will use some of the funds from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to hire a postdoctoral fellow who will run the program. The fellow will be recruited from a local university such as The University of Texas or Texas State University that has a graduate program in education. The grant will also fund a part-time transfer specialist based at ACC who will assist students in selecting courses to make sure they can transfer without losing credit hours.

Funds from the foundation also will be used to develop a new website designed to make community college students more aware of transfer opportunities to private colleges and universities in the Central Texas area, such as Concordia College and St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, The University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. The website will have materials available in both Spanish and English.

Nearly half of ACC’s credit students intend to earn credit for transfer. The number of students transferring from ACC to Southwestern has increased greatly in the past five years, from 27 in 2007 to 42 in 2011. Southwestern and ACC signed an articulation agreement in 2007.

Students who meet certain income guidelines will be informed about the new program and encouraged to apply. Two cohorts will be selected during the 2012-2013 academic year – a cohort that will be ready to transfer to Southwestern in the spring of 2013 and another cohort that will be ready to transfer in the fall of 2013.

“This program opens up another exciting opportunity in our growing relationship with Austin Community College and the transfer students we serve,” said Dave Voskuil, vice president for enrollment services at Southwestern.

The new program is modeled loosely after a well-known program established by the Posse Foundation that selects groups of high school students from specific geographical areas to move through college together.

“Developing mentor relationships and creating a sense of engagement are important factors in college achievement,” said Kathleen Christensen, vice president of student support and success systems for ACC. “This grant program will incorporate those elements, giving students the tools they need to be successful.”

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation was established in 2000 to provide financial support to high-achieving, low-income students. The Foundation provides both direct support to students and grants to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions that offer opportunities for deserving students. Â

Officials from both Southwestern and ACC hope the program can continue after the funding from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation ends.

 “ACC is committed to helping students accomplish their goals. For many of them, that includes transferring to a university,” Christensen said. “This grant creates new opportunities for deserving students, and we are proud to work with Southwestern to allow them to take the next step in their education.”

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