Successful first year for ISU admissions partnerships with Iowa's 15 community colleges

AMES, Iowa - With a full year under its belt, Iowa State University's Admissions Partnership Program with Iowa community colleges is posting numbers that indicate it is on the right track.

First piloted in 2006 at Des Moines Area Community College, the Admissions Partnership Program (APP) makes it easier for community college students to transfer to Iowa State for their four-year degrees. A year ago, Iowa State marked the completion of APP agreements with all 15 community colleges in Iowa.

Now the program boasts nearly 430 community college students.

"It seems to be doing what we're wanting it to do," said Laura Doering, Iowa State's director of transfer relations. "Preliminary research indicates that APP transfer students who have enrolled are more satisfied and have a higher retention rate."

Community college students who participate in APP enjoy many of the same benefits Iowa State students receive -- such as access to ISU advisers, student services and library facilities -- while they attend classes at partner community colleges. Doering said about two dozen APP students lived in Iowa State campus residences while taking community college courses this past spring (another benefit of participation in the program) and even more are expected to live on campus in the fall.

"The benefits are helping students plan for a successful transfer as well as connect to Iowa State and feel like a Cyclone before they ever enroll at Iowa State," Doering said.

Program assessment

Doering said ISU has a history of enrolling more Iowa community college students than any other school in the state, and those numbers are growing. Last year, 945 of the 1,500-plus transfer students coming to ISU were from Iowa community colleges.

Since the first class of APP participants signed up in 2006, Iowa State has welcomed 315 APP transfer students to campus for the next step in their academic careers. Approximately 150 APP students are expected to be among the fall 2009 transfer class.

With more than 300 APP participants already enrolled at ISU and more than 400 future ISU students utilizing the program at partner community colleges, Doering said admissions staff members are evaluating ways to improve the process. That includes program awareness, earlier identification of potential participants in the community colleges, and continued communication with key ISU personnel, especially the academic advisers.

"We're looking at fine-tuning the process for our campus partners," Doering said. "We're taking a look at what's working, where are there opportunities to improve the student experience in APP and how to improve their matriculation to Iowa State and their retention once they are on campus."

Branching out

Doering said Iowa State's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recently appointed a faculty liaison to each of Iowa's 15 community colleges. The College of Engineering is collaborating with DMACC on a grant-funded program, which includes an expanded APP concept with a learning community experience that would bring more engineering students to campus. She said the College of Business is exploring a similar model for its APP students.

"That's what we want to see happen," Doering said. "Taking the many benefits of the baseline partnership and really continuing to improve that student experience. We're looking for anything that will help with a seamless transfer."