Southeast Missouri State University launched a Transfer Mentor Program this week through partnerships with Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri, and Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, to help community college students plan a pathway to success, enhancing their transition to Southeast early on to complete their degree.
Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University, signed a memorandum of understanding with Dr. Raymond Cummiskey, president of Jefferson College, Feb. 22, and with Dr. Wesley Payne, president of Three Rivers College, Feb. 23, to launch the initiative.
The free program will help community college students plan and track their degree program at Southeast from their very first semester of college. Jefferson College and Three Rivers College students who participate will be assigned a transfer mentor, offering them individual support as a community college student through their first semester of enrollment at Southeast.
“The Transfer Mentor Program will assist students across southeast Missouri by providing the tools, resources and support they need to be successful,” Vargas said. “This agreement reflects the interests of all of our institutions to better meet the higher education needs of students in this region and underscores the commitment of the three institutions to improve degree completion rates in this area.”
As part of the program, students will have access to academic advising at Southeast and Southeast’s web-based degree management system. The program also provides students opportunities for concurrent enrollment and reverse transfer to earn their Associate of Arts degrees.
“Jefferson College and Southeast Missouri State University have a long and successful relationship and this agreement aligns our institutions even more closely to create additional opportunities and pathways for student success,” Cummiskey said. “The Transfer Mentor Program will make it easier for students to earn an associate degree and transfer seamlessly to complete their bachelor’s degree. Through our shared commitment to quality educational programming, Jefferson College and Southeast Missouri State University are helping to ensure that future graduates have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive and changing world.”
Payne added, “The mentor program will increase the pathways to completion for our students and smooth the transition from Three Rivers to Southeast. This joint effort will serve the needs of our students and keep them focused on the completion of their degree and ultimate goal.”
This week’s agreements mark a significant partnership among the community colleges, their students and Southeast, said Lenell Hahn, director of Admissions at Southeast. The institutions will work together to support student success as students plan and track their degree from the very beginning.
“The biggest questions transfer students have is ‘will my credits transfer?’” Hahn said. “To better help them, we need to start that relationship the first semester the student starts at their community college and to build that communication and support throughout their studies so they know that the credits they take at their two-year school will work at the four-year school.”
Missouri Senate Bill 997, signed into law on June 16, 2016, requires institutions to offer proactive advising – “an advising model in which advisors reach out to students in anticipation of their needs, connect students with resources and support early in their studies, and motivate students to succeed.” To that end, Southeast Missouri State University developed the “Transfer Mentor Program” to encourage students to plan and track their degree program at Southeast beginning in their first semester at a community college.
The new program recently was accepted by the Missouri Department of Higher Education as part of the Guided Pathways to Success Pilot Project. As a participant, Southeast will collect and report data annually beginning in February 2018 to the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education, on the program’s progress and effectiveness. Outcomes of both pilot programs will be reported to Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and the Missouri General Assembly by Jan. 1, 2020, along with a recommendation on possible statewide expansion.
The programs being piloted at Jefferson College and Three Rivers College encourage students to sign up to participate in the program around the same time they are admitted to their community college. At that time, a Southeast student record is created for them, and they are assigned individual support mentors from Southeast.
Every semester, Jefferson College and Three Rivers College will send an official college transcript to Southeast at no cost to the student. This will allow the student, their community college and Southeast to share information, manage progress towards their degree and have access to it in a web-based degree management system.
With the institutions working directly together on behalf of the students, Southeast’s Office of Admissions can create a clear pathway for the students’ ultimate goal of a bachelor’s degree and give them good guidance and mentorship to succeed, Hahn said.
“Each school will share transcripts at the end of every semester, the students’ degree audits will be updated each semester and the students and staff can see good, clear information to track their progress towards their bachelor’s degree, and see how their community college classes are fulfilling their degree requirements at Southeast,” she said.
“We want to provide any opportunity for students to find the quickest way to finish their degree,” Hahn said. “If there’s a class that they need, we want to encourage them to take that class concurrently at Southeast while still at their two-year school if that’s going to give them a quicker path to completing their degree.”
No matter what degree path a student may take, the Transfer Mentor Program encourages collaboration between Southeast and partnership institutions for the benefit of student success, said Hahn.
“The program brings the University and colleges together with the same technology and advising platforms to work collaboratively on behalf of the students,” she said.
The program lifts the burden from students to track and plan their future by themselves and even allows mentors to foresee opportunities, said Brooke Lockhart, assistant director for transfer recruitment at Southeast.
The transfer process, including the requirements for applications, registering, advising and financial aid, can be difficult to navigate, Lockhart said. But the Transfer Mentor Program can help throughout every step.
“It’s great that we’re going to have all this in place for them, and they can focus on being a student and taking their classes,” she said.
Additionally, when students from the two community colleges are ready to enroll and apply for admission to Southeast, the application fee will be waived for Transfer Mentor Program participants.
The program is open to any community college student. If their community college is not a participant of the program, students can still complete an individual agreement with Southeast and must send their official college transcripts to Southeast at the end of every semester.
Southeast hopes to partner with additional institutions in the future.
The positive impact of the Transfer Mentor Program will be felt by community college students throughout the southeast Missouri region, Hahn said.
“Students will have so many options available to fit their needs through this program with Southeast’s multiple locations and online programs,” she said. “We’re a student-centered university, and this program puts support systems in place to help students succeed.”
For more information about Southeast’s Transfer Mentor Program, visit http://www.semo.edu/admissions/transfermentor.html.
Top: Dr. Carlos Vargas, right, president of Southeast Missouri State University, signs a memorandum of understanding with Dr. Raymond Cummiskey, president of Jefferson College.