How Minn. colleges are teaming up to give students a cheaper path to 4-year degrees

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, February 21, 2017

By Peter Cox

MPR News/90.1 FM

Steven Ahmad spent his first few years after high school sweating it out in a restaurant kitchen.

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“Being a line cook was definitely good motivation of like ‘Hey, let’s go to school,’” he said. “You can’t take too many long nights of that job. And so for me it was like, let’s find something better to do.”

So three years ago at age 23, he enrolled at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. He finished his associates degree, and decided to go for a four-year degree. He looked at several state schools, but he settled on Concordia University in St. Paul for a simple reason

“All my credits transferred — all 66 transferred to Concordia,” he said. “Which was a big deal.”

It’s a big deal because it can sometimes be difficult to transfer community college credits to a four-year school.

But Concordia, like a growing number of private schools in the state, has made the path from community college into its program as seamless as possible.

Schools realize they can bolster enrollment numbers by looking to community colleges.

Kristin Vogel is the associate vice president for traditional enrollment management at Concordia. She said transfers are part of school’s mission and business model.

“Of the 3,000 undergraduate students about 2,000 of those are transfer students,” she said.

Concordia’s enrollment increased nearly 60 percent between 2011 and 2015, as most other private schools in the state saw enrollment decline.

And students, in turn, are seeing a new — and cheaper — route to a bachelor’s degree.

“It’s maybe someone that always knew they wanted to come to Concordia but it was a more affordable option to start at a community college,” Vogel said.

Larry Pogemiller, the commissioner of Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education said he expects more schools to establish clear transfer agreements as a way to attract students.

“So it’s got kind of all the benefits that you would want for a student,” he said. “A less expensive pathway, kind of encouragement to excel and do well at your course work and then a certain guarantee that you could get into a four-year institution after your two-year path.”