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Katie Giardello, director of ASAP/ACE national replication strategy, City University of New York

Last fall, I wrote about the promise of leveraging structural change in transfer systems to address institutional infrastructure failings that inhibit equity in student success. As I’ve followed the blog, I’ve been intrigued by several “Beyond Transfer” articles focused on work in systems to facilitate smooth transfer pathways and infrastructure change for improving transfer student success. This story is about both, as we discuss how a scaled systems change effort is updating campus infrastructure and holds potential to tangibly (and expediently) impact student success outcomes in the state of North Carolina, where the UNC system just launched TrACE (Transfer, Accelerate, Complete, Engage) on three of its campuses—Appalachian State, East Carolina University and UNC Greensboro.

TrACE is adapted from the empirically validated CUNY ASAP/ACE accelerated degree-completion model to focus specifically on community college transfer student success in the UNC system. TrACE was developed after about nine months of technical assistance and intensive planning support from the CUNY ASAP/ACE national replication team. Three pilot student cohorts just finished their first semester of TrACE, and the reflections below offer insight for other systems change agents to consider how similar partnerships have the potential to tactically impact college completion outcomes across the country for transfer students, and beyond.

TrACEing Transfer Infrastructure Change in the UNC System

Shun Robertson, vice president for access and success strategy, University of North Carolina system

The University of North Carolina system hired a new president over a year ago, Peter Hans. President Hans is a terrific leader whose focus on access, affordability and student success has pushed us to ensure we build strong transfer pathways within the UNC system. Successful transfer from one of our 58 community colleges is paramount to the success of our system, to the state of North Carolina and, most importantly, to so many low-income students, first-generation students and students of color.

With that in mind, we found creative ways to leverage federal relief funds to help transfer students, many of whom had to adjust or delay their plans to get on track to complete in a timely fashion. We successfully petitioned our governor, Roy Cooper, for one-time funding from the Governors’ Emergency Education Relief in support of student success projects, including those focused on transfer students. During this process, we were approached by Arnold Ventures with the idea to replicate a version of CUNY ASAP|ACE within the UNC system.

We’re excited to be the first four-year system outside of CUNY to implement the program. In 2018, we started the Student Success Innovation Lab. We fundraised from philanthropic sources to provide funds to our institutions to implement or scale innovative student success projects, and we paired practitioners with faculty members from other system institutions who assisted the institutional teams in planning and drafting proposals, and now oversee the evaluation of the projects. This model allows us to invest in our faculty and at the same time help our institutions get valuable data about what works to improve student success for their own students. TrACE is the next iteration of that work.

We are starting this project with sustainability in mind. We hope this project helps our institutions think innovatively about how to deploy their existing advising and student support resources. Also, as a system office, we can use the evaluation results from this study to inform policy or funding changes that will allow our institutions to do more of what works. We can also share these successes with our other institutions and help them think differently about how to support transfer students.

Infrastructure Change at UNCG Through TrACE

Samantha Raynor, assistant vice provost for strategic student success initiatives, UNC Greensboro

UNC Greensboro is a minority-serving institution and emerging Hispanic-serving institution whose undergraduates are mostly first in family to attend college and who rely on financial assistance to attend college. Nearly 40 percent of our undergraduate population is made up of transfer students, 60 percent of whom come from the North Carolina Community College System. It is within this unique context that we embraced the opportunity to serve as a replication partner for TrACE.

The responsibility for transfer student success is shared between Enrollment Management, the Division of Student Success and advising units across the university. TrACE has created a structure through which the Division of Student Success can support academic advising centers across campus in advising transfer students, particularly in their first year, when advising is most critical. At our site, we have an existing position that was focused on transfer initiatives serving as the TrACE director, responsible for running the day-to-day for TrACE. We have added a new academic adviser position to support the participants. The TrACE academic adviser supplements the advising provided by our advising centers and faculty advisers. We are also leveraging our existing Transfer2Transfer Mentors program, which is made possible through a partnership with Mentor Collective. Pairing first-year transfer students with continuing transfer students provides a peer navigator for students as they transition to UNCG. These navigators introduce mentees to campus resources and encourage utilization of those resources. Transfer2Transfer Mentors is creating great results.

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