03/04/2015 09:14 am ET Updated May 04, 2015

Streamlining the Community College Transfer Process

As leaders in higher education, our goal is to provide an environment where our students can learn and achieve their goal of earning a college degree. To do this, we must offer seamless transitions from other colleges, particularly community colleges, to reduce redundancy in course work while also reducing the overall cost.

In order to reduce the overall cost of their education, many students choose to start their educational journey at a community college. In fact almost half of undergraduate students in the U.S. attend a community college. In addition, statistics show that nearly 40 percent of community college students transfer to a four-year institution, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

In 2010, the Obama administration set a goal to be the country with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. That effort also includes a goal of having five million graduates from community colleges.

Just a few weeks ago, the White House unveiled "America's College Promise" - a proposal aimed at making two years of community college free for qualifying students. The program would be in partnership with states and if all participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit and save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year. Whether you are in support or against the proposal it did spark a healthy and necessary discussion around our commitment to education in the U.S.

Even with potential changes on the horizon, we need to provide community college graduates a direct path to earning a bachelor degree that offers:

  • An affordable way to earn a degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates at a 2-year institution was3,521 in 2012-13, compared to7,526 at a four-year institution for the same time frame.
  • A process that puts the student first by offering a seamless, easy process, particularly for nontraditional students who are often older and have additional job and family responsibilities. Nearly sixty percent of students at community colleges are between the age of 22 and 39 years old.

At Western International University, we build partnerships with community colleges around the U.S. and have specific programs in place to ensure these students have an opportunity to advance their education, whether they have taken just a few classes at a community college or if they've earned their associate's degree. West advisors are trained to assist community college students, and we accept up to 72 credits from community colleges. After eight courses are successfully completed at West, tuition is waived for the ninth course.

We owe it to community college students to streamline the transfer process so they can complete their degrees in a timely and affordable manner. Advancing the community college student is a worthwhile investment for all parties: the student, the institution and businesses across the country.