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The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has teamed up with the Center for Urban Education (CUE) at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education for a two-year study into how to improve transfer rates of students of color from two- to four-year institutions. The study furthers the Growth Agenda for Wisconsin’s goal to increase the number of Wisconsin residents with college degrees and to increase degree pathways for the state’s adult population.

As part of the Wisconsin Transfer Equity Study, CUE is working directly with an “evidence team” comprised of faculty and staff from UW Oshkosh as well as its regional partners, Fox Valley Technical College and UW-Sheboygan.

“This study is unique because it represents an opportunity to holistically examine the challenge of improving transfer policies to provide better transfer access to African American, Latino/a, Southeast Asian and American Indian students from the top down, in terms of state policy and accountability, and from the bottom up, in terms of campus and intra-campus interventions,” said Estela Mara Bensimon, co-director of the Center for Urban Education and a professor of higher education. “This type of work has not been done before.”

The team members from UW Oshkosh include Lynn Freeman (director, Academic Advising), Kelly Hudson (student services coordinator, Center for New Learning), Michael Watson (director, Institutional Research), Miriam Schacht (faculty, English) and Charlie Hill (director, Center for New Learning). The team meets on a monthly basis and is working to identify barriers to students of color who wish to transfer. Like many states, Wisconsin seeks to raise the level of baccalaureate attainment among its residents, and improving transfer is an important strategy towards achieving that goal.

“Delving into our data and discovering some of our ‘choke points’ in the curricula has proven immensely valuable,” said Richard H. Wells, chancellor of UW Oshkosh. “We hope to take these findings and really make a difference in helping African American, Latino and Native American students transfer into four-year institutions.”

The work for the Wisconsin Transfer Equity Study, funded by the Ford Foundation, started in Fall 2008, when the Center for Urban Education began working with key administrators from the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Technical College systems to identify system-level policy barriers to transferring. Some major areas for change identified by this system-level team include developing accountability structures to monitor transfers and outcomes for students of color and strengthening articulation between the technical/occupational and baccalaureate programs.

In the current phase of the study, the Center is working directly with the selected two- and four-year institutions to identify barriers in the transfer pathway within an institution or between institutions. The Wisconsin Transfer Equity Study includes Milwaukee Area Technical College and UW-Milwaukee in addition to UW Oshkosh, Fox Valley Technical College and UW-Sheboygan.