Battle Creek

Agreement between KCC and GVSU eases transfer concerns for students

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.

The bridge between Kellogg Community College and Grand Valley State University is being strengthened through an agreement that will streamline the pathway for KCC students who want to go on to GVSU to further their education and earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, says Al Shifflett, Director of Community Engagement with GVSU’s Battle Creek Regional Outreach Center.
The agreement takes effect on Friday following a signing ceremony beginning at 9 a.m. in the lobby of the Binda Performing Arts Center on KCC’s campus. Dr. Paul Watson, President of KCC, and Dr. Philomena Mantella, President of GVSU, are scheduled to make remarks before signing off on the agreement known as the Institutional Articulation Agreement.
Shifflett says, this agreement “is critical to ensure there are not any barriers in transferring credits, receiving financial aid, or any other resource a student needs to continue their education.”
KCC students who earn an Associate’s degree from KCC intending to go on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s, or Ph.D. from GVSU want to make sure that 100 percent of those two-year degree credits transfer, he says.
“The agreement will enable us to do a course review on both sides. Our faculty will look at KCC programming and make necessary adjustments in the courses required for a higher degree at GVSU,” Shifflett says. “Students will have an outline on paper in front of them which will detail the pathway to get a four-year degree or higher at GVSU in their chosen field of study.”

The curricula are designed by faculty in both institutions and GVSU and KCC have to work around with the two curricula developed to map them and identify what can count where, says Dr. Fatma Mili, Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs with GVSU.
“Advisors  and counselors from both institutions have been collaborating in mapping these. With degrees and programs that were developed independently of one another there is some work involved to make them work in synch for the students,” Mili says. “In general, we accept a significant number of transfer students. Our curricula are designed to create as many on-ramps as possible. These individual agreements go beyond the built-in on-ramps, by creating additional optimized pathways, and putting in place student support services.”

Kellogg Community CollegeThe curricula are designed by faculty in both institutions and GVSU and KCC have to work around the two curricula developed to map them and identify what can count where, says Dr. Fatma Mili, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs with GVSU.
“We know that advisors and counselors have been involved with mapping these. With degrees and two programs that are developed independently of one another there is some work involved to make them work at GVSU,” Mili says. “In general, we accept a significant number of transfer students. Our curricula are designed to create as many on-ramps as possible.”
The number of new transfer students in Fall 2022 was 1,318 or about 24.8% of incoming/new undergraduates, says Dr. Aaron Lowen, GVSU’s Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, Office of the Provost. Additionally, he says, that of the 18,665 undergraduates at GVSU in Fall, 2022, 3,099 undergraduates were transfers from another institution.
The number of students from the Battle Creek area enrolled at GVSU is 1,416 which represents more than 6.5% of the total student enrollment 0f 21,648, according to Fall, 2022 enrollment numbers.
Watson says in a written statement that the articulation agreement exemplifies the school’s continued dedication to empowering students to reach their full potential.
“Kellogg Community College is pleased to enhance its longstanding collaboration with Grand Valley State University, offering students a smoother transition from KCC to GVSU,” Watson says. “This articulation agreement reflects our ongoing commitment to providing accessible, high-quality education to our students, providing more opportunities for them to pursue higher education seamlessly."
Dr. Paul Watson, President of Kellogg Community CollegeThere are no restrictions on the degree fields of study and there is no age limit. So, if an individual wants to return to school to earn a degree to better position themselves for a new career path, they can do that.
Academic advisors from both schools are equipped to talk about the transfer process with those conversations starting at the time of a student’s enrollment at KCC, Shifflett says.
“They will continue to work with students throughout their time at KCC,” he says of the advisors. “We will work with them on specific schools within GVSU. This agreement starts these dialogs. We will start to engage. Our advisors will be coming to KCC to work with these students. They’ll be Lakers from day one even if they’re not at GVSU yet.”
GVSU’s agreement with KCC is the latest in similar arrangements the Allendale-based university already has with seven other community colleges, including Glen Oaks, Lansing, and Kirtland, Mili says.
The agreement with KCC was driven by KCC, Shifflett says, adding that it makes sense because GVSU comes in second behind Western Michigan University as the school of choice for students graduating from KCC. WMU recently entered into a transfer agreement with Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Mili says GVSU has had a long-term relationship with KCC.
“Early in 2020, we realized that even though we have a good number of students from KCC coming to GVSU, the pathway we had wasn’t always optimal. They weren’t taking classes at KCC that they could use for their major here,” she says. “We started working with them to define these pathways whether they come for a major in business, nursing, or engineering. Depending on their interests it can be much more efficient for us to work with KCC to figure out what courses to take ahead of time so they end up with an associate's degree and will be ready for the next steps.”
Easing the financial burden, increasing opportunities
Every year, hundreds of thousands of students start at community colleges hoping to transfer to a university later. It’s advertised as a cheaper path to a bachelor’s degree, an education hack in a world of ever-rising tuition costs, according to a recent Associated Press story.
“Yet the reality is rarely that simple. For some students, the transfer process becomes a maze so confusing it derails their college plans,” the story says. “Among nearly 1 million students who started at a community college in 2016, just one in seven earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse. One of the biggest obstacles is known as credit loss: when students take classes that never end up counting toward a degree. Sometimes it’s a result of poor advising. Without clear guidance from community colleges, students take courses they don’t need. Blame can also lie with four-year colleges, which have varying rules for evaluating transfer credits. Some are pickier than others.”
GVSU’s agreement with KCC is designed to mitigate these issues, Mili says.
“We make sure that the credits they have there are accepted here. This is easing the pathway for them and saving them money,” she says. “This broadens the tent of students who we enable to achieve their dreams. It’s a win for us because it’s not only opening this pathway allowing young people to graduate with as little debt as possible but also saving them money that they didn’t spend on courses they didn’t need to take.”
Dr. Fatma Mili, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs with Grand Valley State University.However, for some area students, the cost savings start when they enroll at KCC thanks to the Legacy Scholars program established in 2005 by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The scholarship program covers up to 62 credit hours of tuition, fees, and books at either KCC or an approved trade school or registered apprenticeship program which equates to about $11,400 per student. The Legacy Scholars program is open to eligible graduates from Battle Creek Public Schools, Lakeview School District, and Calhoun Community High School. The endowment for the program is administered by the Battle Creek Community Foundation.
Shifflett says for those students transferring from KCC to GVSU whose annual family income level is $50,000 or below, there is the Grand Valley Pledge which says that “We pledge that admitted students who meet the short list of other criteria below will be automatically awarded full undergraduate tuition and course fees, renewable for up to four years for entering freshman and two years for transfer students, based on FAFSA eligibility.”
“If that’s your income level and you go to KCC for free, you could enter into GVSU tuition-free,” Shifflett says.

GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella said in an earlier story that the Grand Valley Pledge program demonstrates the university's commitment to its communities. In addition to Calhoun County, the Grand Valley Pledge is being offered in Grand Traverse, Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, and Wayne counties.

"It is another way of assuring that we create opportunity and advance equity in the communities in which we live and teach, as well as inspire a broader movement of making higher education accessible to all,” Mantella said in a press release.
Mili says, “We see it in many cases where students are not even considering going further. We’re opening that door and making it possible and letting them know that they don’t have to stop at an Associate’s degree and we can help them in getting to that Bachelor’s degree.”

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Jane Parikh is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.