TORRINGTON – Eastern Wyoming College students do as well as or better than their academic counterparts when they take a full, two-year community college experience to the University of Wyoming.
That’s the results of a UW report tracking first-semester grade point averages of students entering the university from all the state’s community colleges, out of state and students who spent their first two years of college on the Laramie campus.
“What this (report) provides us is the number of students who transfer in, it looks at a GPA comparison of their community college GPA and their first semester, their first year, on campus at UW,” said Roger Humphrey, Vice President for Academic Services at EWC. “Also, it looks at their retention and completion at the university – how many of them are on track to graduate.”
Compared to other Wyoming community colleges, EWC has traditionally transferred the fewest number of students to the state’s only four-year college. For the 2017-18 academic year, 29 EWC students transferred their credits to UW, 23 in the spring and six in the fall, compared to 39 for the 2016-17 academic year, according to the report. Part of the decrease probably reflects the overall enrollment reduction at EWC, Humphrey said.
A high percentage of EWC students, by almost a two-to-one margin, transfer their credits to Chadron State College in Nebraska, for example, he said.
But the largest percentage of students annually are in programs the college is known for. When they finish their course of study at EWC, they’re ready to go out into the workforce, Humphrey said.
“We have a lot of Nebraska students, who transfer their credits back to Chadron,” he said. “One variable is we have a lot of students who graduate with ‘terminal degrees’ – cosmetology, veterinary technology, welding programs. They don’t pursue or there isn’t a four-year degree associated with their programs.”
The top performing EWC students after the first semester in the 2017-18 school year were in Education and Business programs, according to the report. Education students returned an average 2.29 GPA, on track with UW undergrads 3.55 GPA.
The Business students had an average 3.23 GPA, outpacing the UW counterpart’s 3.0 GPA. Likewise, in Arts and Sciences – with the greatest number of transfers – EWC students averaged a 2.99 first semester GPA compared to 3.07 for students who’d been on the UW campus since the beginning.
Part of the problem with interpreting the numbers is the relatively small number of students represented – six in Arts and Sciences, four in Business and three in Education. That small sample can sometimes skew the numbers, Humphrey said. But he’s still confident the report is saying EWC is doing what it needs to be doing to prepare students to finish their education.
“The difficult part on this is, because of the low (student) numbers, we see high variability from year to year,” he said. “But, overall, our education majors, for example, were comparable to all other transfers. Our business and science (majors) were actually above the UW students and arts and sciences were very close.
“Overall, our students were comparable to other Wyoming transfers or above the transfers from other institutions,” Humphrey said. “We were pleased to see the numbers increased in education as compared to (the previous year).”
The report also found a “sweet spot” in terms of total credits students transferred from EWC to UW. Students with at least 60 credits but no more than 90 credits – the equivalent of a two-year degree from EWC – performed best with an average 2.88 GPA in Fall 2017. Humphrey said those students are on the proper track to graduate in four years.
“That gives us another indication we’re doing what we need to be doing, that we’re preparing them,” he said. “It allows us to gauge our success.”
In 2013, the last year on the report with full graduation numbers, 61 percent of students who transferred from EWC graduated with a four-year degree from UW.
All this is made possible by a process known as articulation – the matching of freshman and sophomore curricula at the university with curricula at the state’s community colleges. In place since about 2013, Humphrey said, articulation means students in specific programs at EWC and other community colleges in the state can transfer 100 percent of the credits they’ve earned during their first two years to the university.
Overall, community colleges provide a valuable stepping stone to life at a four-year university, particularly for students coming from smaller communities and smaller high school classes, Humphrey said. The smaller class sizes and more personalized educational experience at a community college can be advantageous as students transition in to what, for many, is their first time living away from home.
“The report is saying students who transfer with 60 or more credits are as successful or more successful than students who’ve been at UW all four years,” he said. “Ultimately, that would be our goal for all of our students.
“The ultimate goal is for all students to transfer degrees and have high GPAs,” Humphrey said. “This report is saying that’s all working.”