Better connections with the state’s seven community colleges could make attaining a degree at the University of Wyoming even easier.

Alyson Hagy, special assistant to the president for transfer articulation, has focused on easing the transfer of students in many UW degree programs for more than a year.

“We didn’t have a single way of showing students they could spend two years at a certain community college and then come to UW and have two years left,” she left.

Before the current efforts, there was no guarantee transfer students could graduate with a bachelor’s degree in a total of four years. Some community colleges required students take courses irrelevant to UW’s requirements, sometimes lengthening their stay at UW for a year or longer.

The UW group originally started with 17 of the most common majors. About half of all transfer students are enrolled in those programs, making them top priorities, Hagy said.

Community college administration and faculty worked with UW to make compatible transfer of nearly all of those programs. To date, 124 majors either have plans in place or in finalization.

Stefani Hicswa, president of Northwest College in Powell, helped complete all of the original 17 programs, which include majors like petroleum engineering, political science and business administration.

“I really am very excited,” she said. “It really is important for our state — there are 28,000 community college students in our state and over half transfer.”

Northwest College has transfer programs with more than a dozen other regional universities, but a majority of transfers head to UW, Hicswa said.

“Powell is closer to out-of-state universities, but most of our students transfer to UW,” she said. “I know the importance of those (transfer pathways) for students, and they’re really focused on retention and graduation.”

A second list of 17 majors is more ambitious, Hagy explained. Some programs, like marketing and finance, were well integrated, while majors like pre-pharmacy and energy resource management are more difficult.

“Those are complicated, professional curricula, but we’re giving it a go,” she said. “But if we could figure it out, it would be a great service to the state.”

Hicswa said most of the footwork came down to individual departments and faculty members.

“The faculty have said this is the single most interaction with UW they’ve had in their careers,” she said.

However, there are a few areas that need continued attention and possible improvements, Hicswa said. Earning an associate’s degree at the community college is sometimes not a top priority.

“We want to make sure transfer students earn their associates degree before the transfer so they can get those credentials,” she said. “Research shows students with an associate’s degree graduate at a higher rate.”

An effective coordinator from UW also needs to help students at every college. Outreach academic coordinators are already on campus, but they are recruiting specifically for outreach programs, not providing a direct pipeline to finish their time at UW Laramie or UW Casper.

“We built both sides of a foundation for a bridge, but we don’t have the bridge there yet,” Trustee Mike Massie said.

Finally, the program has to be sustainable — while the programs are currently strong, they could fade in the future.

“We’ll have an annual summit,” Hagy said. “We’ll designate a certain number of majors that need updated, and we’ll look at those and make sure we’re all in-sync.”

Hicswa is confident such coordination will continue.

“I am really excited about incoming President Laurie Nichols’ commitment to this,” she said. “This transfer initiative is one of her priorities as well.”

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