More than 70 percent of students entering SLCC intend to transfer to four-year schools
Wendy Vu was inspired at an early age to pursue medicine as a career. Her father was an orderly at the old Cottonwood Hospital in Salt Lake Valley and she began volunteering there the summer after eighth grade. Now she’s a third-year medical student at the University of Utah.
Vu's trajectory toward medical school is one that included Salt Lake Community College. In academia, the College is highly regarded for its role in helping well-prepared students transfer to the state’s four-year colleges and universities, and thousands of successful students each year follow the transfer path through SLCC.
During high school, Vu took concurrent enrollment classes at SLCC. In 2008, she graduated from Taylorsville High School and from SLCC with an associate’s degree. “I had all of my general studies requirements taken care of at SLCC, which was a lot cheaper and helped save time when I got to the University of Utah,” Vu says. “I was able to focus on the required courses for my major and pre-med track once at the U.” Her goal now is a career in pediatrics after she graduates with an MD degree in spring 2017.
All eight of Utah’s public institutions, as well as Brigham Young University and Westminster College, accept SLCC courses numbered 1000 or above as general education, major credit or elective credit. The same holds true for most out-of-state schools.
About 73 percent of students entering SLCC intend to transfer to four-year institutions. Transfer students at SLCC include those with a handful of courses under their belt all the way to those who earn a two-year associate’s degree. About 60 percent of those who enroll at SLCC and transfer out, go to the University of Utah. And from 45-48 percent of undergraduate transfer students at the U come from SLCC, and end up in different academic schools throughout the U.
"We absolutely regard Salt Lake Community College as our top feeder institution," says Mary Parker, associate vice president for Enrollment Management at the U. "We do a significant amount of recruitment there." She says the U is increasing its presence at SLCC campuses and focusing on creating more and better pathway programs between SLCC and the U. Access U, for example, guarantees SLCC students admission into the U and a guaranteed scholarship of up to $2,000 upon meeting certain qualifications and graduating from SLCC.
The U and SLCC also are exploring incentives like discounted tuition and priority registration to compel SLCC students to finish an associate degree prior to transfer. Once SLCC students transfer to the U, statistics show that they're succeeding academically and graduating. "They perform very well. The data shows that students coming in from SLCC are performing the same or better than some of our students."
Paving the way
SLCC's internal processes and programs as a transfer institution include articulation agreements with other schools: making sure a course offered at SLCC is the same as or similar enough at another institution to say it will transfer. “We can definitively say that we have worked very hard to ensure that a student who plans their time here can have a great preparatory experience for transferring,” says Nate Southerland, SLCC assistant provost of Academic Support. “We have aligned our programs and pathways to as many of our transfer partners as possible.”
Breeanna Dahle Gray can attest to that. She learned at Bingham High School in South Jordan about SLCC’s biotechnology program and thought it might be something she wanted to do with her life. “I got into the biotech program and fell in love,” she says. No, literally, she fell in love — with her husband Mike Gray, whom she met while taking a biotech class at SLCC. She invited nearly every SLCC instructor she had to the wedding. “They felt like family.”
Breeanna Dahle Gray
Gray, 25, began taking classes at SLCC’s Jordan Campus in the Jordan Applied Technology Center while still in high school. She graduated from Bingham in 2009, earned her associate’s degree in 2010 and transferred to Utah Valley University, which she notes also offers night courses at SLCC’s Jordan Campus. Now she’s working full time in the biotechnology field and steadily moving toward a master’s degree in biotechnology at the U.
Making the grade
Southerland says a lot of transfer students could easily start out at a four-year school, but for a variety of reasons they choose SLCC. “It has to do with cost, times classes are offered, the size of classes and where they’re offered,” he says. Gray can relate. Early on, she signed up for a physics class at the U with 250 students but quickly fell behind. “I was feeling lost—I was terrified,” she recalls. Gray needed a smaller class with an instructor who could answer questions during class. She dropped the class and the next semester picked it up at SLCC, this time in a class of about 25 students. “It was really important for me to have the ability to go to the teacher in real time,” she says. Gray earned an A in the class.
Kari Walker, 32, once balked at the idea of going to a community college. Now she says she kicks herself for not starting out at SLCC. Walker went to Utah State University, transferred to the University of Utah's Department of Physical Therapy and took prerequisites in physics, chemistry, anatomy and physiology at SLCC. She and several SLCC classmates in Melaney Birdsong Farr’s human anatomy class at SLCC applied for and received a grant from the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS), earning them a spot as presenters at the 28th annual HAPS spring conference. “I had research opportunities, amazing opportunities, that U students can’t have because they’re in such big classrooms,” Walker says.
As a single mother to an 8-year-old daughter, she is still finding her way, and took time off from school this year to pay down student loans. She is considering a path toward education and leadership policy. “Our class sizes allow for students who don’t have a firm idea of what they want to do to develop their academic personality,” says SLCC Provost for Academic Affairs Clifton Sanders. As an instructor in the past, he often saw ability in students and would pull them aside and advise them on options. “I think that’s something we do differently than other institutions."
Karen Minchow in 2015 retired after 25 years as a captain, paramedic and firefighter with Salt Lake County and Unified Fire Authority, and knew exactly what she wanted when she enrolled at SLCC. She followed friends’ advice to start at SLCC, which she did in 2011 and is currently in the Physician's Assistant program at the U.