F8-SP1-4 - ASSETS: Building a Model to Support Transfer Students in Engineering –Full Paper

2. Research-to-Practice Work In Progress
Ignatius Fomunung1 , Marclyn Porter1, Audrey Rorrer2, Christopher Silver1, Bradley Harris1, Gary McDonald1, Weidong Wu1
1 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC)
2 University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Traditionally, preparing for, attending, and successfully graduating from a four-year institution has been deemed solely the student’s responsibility. And when he/she was not successful, the question often debated was “WHY aren’t these students ready for college?” The reality is that while transfer students are ready for college, they often face institutional barriers to success that need to be addressed.

Transfer students, many of whom are non-traditional students, face unique barriers to success, including “transfer shock,” misaligned curricular mapping, a lack of a sense of community, and economic hardships that require at least part-time employment outside of school. Engineering transfer students, in particular, often arrive at four-year institutions lacking prerequisite courses to take junior-level (or major-specific) courses, resulting in an extended program of study-sometimes up to four years following transfer.

UTC ASSETS (Academic Intervention, Social Supports and Scholarships for Engineering Transfer Students), a comprehensive support ecosystem designed to improve the retention rate and reduce time to graduation for engineering transfer students, is a 5-year NSF-funded program. Currently in the second year of operation, with 23 enrolled ASSETS scholars, the ASSETS program has implemented and is studying the effectiveness of evidence-based strategies to reduce these barriers to success, improve retention rates, and reduce time to graduation among UTC engineering transfer students. 

In 2015, the state of Tennessee (TN) launched Tennessee Promise, a scholarship and mentoring program that enables attendance at two-year community colleges, tuition-free, for eligible Tennessee high school graduates. With over 18,000 students already enrolled in TN Promise, the number of students who may choose to transfer to four-year institutions is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. Are four-year institutions ready for the expected influx of transfer students? The ASSETS program may be a model that can be replicated, thereby providing necessary guidance and support to transfer students across the state. This paper will present the initial findings and outcomes of the ASSETS program and model.

Keywords: Engineering transfer students; Institutional barriers.