- Community college and university degree partnership programs allow students to tailor their educational experiences to fit personal goals and preferences while transitioning back and forth seamlessly between a community college and four-year university. This qualitative research study, telling the stories and lived experiences of six students participating in a community college and university degree partnership program, uncovers many important facets of their unique college experience.
An analysis of the student stories is organized into four themes. Blending and Swirling describes the five overlapping phases of the student experience. The five phases include 1) identifying as a degree partnership program student, 2) gaining momentum at the community college, 3) testing out the university, 4) moving between two institutions, and 5) settling into the university. Degree Partnership Students Voice Similar Needs describes the similarities between degree partnership program students despite their diverse personal and educational backgrounds. Each student had a desire to gain academic competencies in the supportive and affordable educational environment of the community college. Degree Partnership Students Utilize Two Educational Settings explores the academic and social experiences the students shared regarding studying at the community college and at the university. While studying at the community college, students valued small classes, faculty attention, community education classes, and opportunities to build academic skills. While studying at the university, students valued diverse extra curricular activities, large and comprehensive facilities, computing resources, the library, on campus housing opportunities, faculty scholars, and comprehensive advising programs. Degree Partnership Program Students Experience Difficulties describes the difficultly degree partnership program students experienced with financial aid and scholarships, transportation, the lack of centralized services, and a lack of student mentors.
As momentum for community college and university degree partnership programs builds, results of this study provide a framework for thinking about degree partnership program students and significant direction for services to meet their unique needs. Recommendations include increasing program visibility, offering centralized student support services, creating opportunities for students to interact, and increasing information to university and community college faculty about this new type of student.