Pauline Bateman knew from the very start that she wanted to be a Spartan.
Growing up in nearby Holt, Mich., she frequently was on MSU’s campus. When the time came for her high school graduation, there was no doubt in her mind that she wanted to end up at MSU — “end up” being the key words.
Plans changed when Bateman received minimal financial aid from MSU, and she delayed her attendance at the university to earn credits in a more cost-effective way at Lansing Community College, or LCC.
“I went that route to save money and get my basics out of the way,” Bateman said. “I had always planned from the get-go to go to MSU.”
Now looking back as a psychology senior, she appreciates the time she spent at LCC, but wishes she had been able to spend more time at MSU while still getting a degree — something more students will be able to do following recent legislation in Michigan.
In a new reverse transfer agreement, community college transfer students can attend a university, but later choose to apply those credits back to a community college degree.
The agreement is new, but the policy is just another step in an ongoing relationship between MSU and LCC.
A new tie
Legislation passed last fall requires universities to create transfer agreements with community colleges, which might create more opportunities for students in a tough economy and tougher job market, according to university officials.
MSU Associate Registrar Traci Gulick said the agreement allows students who transfer to MSU from Macomb, Lansing or Grand Rapids community colleges to have credits from the university transfer back to the community college while the student still is attending MSU.
The legislation is meant to help students get a degree from a community college in case the economy begins to suffer, and they no longer can afford higher tuition, or they need to graduate earlier with an associate degree.
“We want to make sure the students are going to be able to graduate with the right knowledge in the shortest amount of time,” Gulick said. “We don’t want anybody to waste their time or waste their money if it can be helped.”
The reverse transfer agreement might be especially appropriate for students such as kinesiology junior Jill Fimbinger, who spent some time at LCC and would prefer to stay at MSU to finish her degree.
Fimbinger, who spent two years at LCC and transferred this fall, said although she misses the class sizes at LCC and feels MSU faculty go much faster, she would still rather stay on campus if she ever opted to earn an associate degree from the community college.
John Dirkx, a professor in the Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education program at MSU, said the new policy might be beneficial in a world where companies place more emphasis on earning college degree, although he noted most employers are looking for bachelor’s or graduate degrees.
Bateman said although the plan might not be for everyone, she has considered taking a break from MSU at times, and said the transfer agreement assures that students who do so still have something to show for their education.
“What happens if a student isn’t able to complete a (bachelor’s) degree?” Gulick said. “If a student isn’t able to, at least they have the associate degree.”
A long-standing relationship
Dirkx said relationships need to be fostered between universities and community colleges.
“It’s an absolutely critical relationship,” Dirkx said. “You can’t understate the role of community colleges in higher education. It’s providing for people who might not otherwise have the opportunity or access to higher education.”
LCC applicants make up a large portion of applicants to MSU, Senior Associate Director of Admissions Mike Cook said.
Cook said LCC applicants made up 13.4 percent of the applicant pool for fall semester 2012, and so far, they make up 14.8 percent of the applicant pool for fall 2013.
Jim Cotter, MSU director of admissions said the LCC schedule might work better for some students, and starting at a community college might be a better fit for some students than to start at a large university.
Gulick said it is well-known many LCC students end up transferring to MSU, but some MSU students also take classes at LCC. The relationship doesn’t stop there.
Dirkx said LCC also has collaborated on research with MSU and on state-level projects. MSU faculty also have been keynote speakers at LCC events.
Other collaborations between MSU and LCC include sharing faculty to train people to work in the film industry in 2009.
The program was held five days a week for two months but stopped because of lack of funding, said MSU Director of Broadcasting Gary Reid, who led the program.
Reid said faculty from both sides came together, with MSU helping to provide the facilities and LCC providing set design, hair and makeup.
“The faculty, particularly in my area at LCC, are excellent,” he said.
Bateman said although the universities collaborate on projects and have many of the same students, there needs to be further collaboration between the advising departments, which she said caused her the most trouble in her move between the institutions.
Rafeeq McGiveron, an adviser at LCC, said he has tried showing students how to find information on classes and transferring on the MSU website, but there are some students who find that difficult.
The online transfer guide includes information about general education courses, but nothing on specific majors.
Despite the challenges, McGiveron said the collaboration between MSU and LCC helps to provide students with a full education.
“The community college and the land-grant institution, with their overlapping missions, they partner up really well I think,” Dirkx said.