Spotlight on Innovation: Increasing Transfer and Completion Rates through Regional Partnerships in the SUNY Oswego Area

Activity based costing


The US Department of Education has awarded multi-million dollar “First in the World” grants to 24 colleges and universities that are innovating to solve critical challenges with access, recruitment, retention, and student success. At AI, we have interviewed each of the recipients to learn more about the projects these institutions are pursuing, how their approaches are unique, and what other colleges and universities can learn from these new efforts.

Although the State University of New York at Oswego already has a strong collaboration with area community colleges, SUNY Oswego has noticed a gap in the number of students moving from two-year to four-year schools. In this north-central region of New York, three community colleges and a community organization partnered with SUNY Oswego to narrow that gap.

Their goals are to increase retention and completion rates both two-year and four-year institutions, encourage more students to transfer to a four-year institution and complete a bachelor’s degree, and strengthen regional economic development in the process. The hope is that this model will provide a sustainable example of how collaboration, aligned coursework and community support can improve degree attainment on multiple levels.

The Transfer Gateways and Completion Program

Leaders at SUNY Oswego are partnering with Onondaga Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, Cayuga Community College, and the community organization On Point for College to use the $2.88 million FITW funding to improve degree attainment through the Transfer Gateways and Completion program. Program components include:

  • Aligned coursework and seamless transfers between the community colleges and SUNY Oswego in targeted degree programs
  • Academic and non-academic advising and support
  • A specially designed course for transfer students that includes academic counseling and financial aid to prepare students for the four-year experience
  • Dual enrollment in a partner community colleges and at SUNY Oswego
  • A professional skills course to prepare students for internships, co-ops, work-based learning, or placement in the workforce

The community organization On Point for College will provide academic and personal financial counseling throughout the program. On Point’s “campus angels” will stay with students from the time they start thinking about college until they get a job, explains Lorrie Clemo, SUNY Oswego’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. That additional advising and support is essential for student success.

The program, which will serve approximately 1,175 students, largely from first-generation, low-income and underrepresented backgrounds, will also encourage community college students to aim for a bachelor’s degree and help them transfer to SUNY Oswego or other four-year institutions. All three community colleges are located within an hour’s drive of SUNY Oswego, which was an important accessibility consideration for this rural portion of New York State.

Keys to Success

Coordinating efforts between the institutions consistently and effectively will be critical:

  • Faculty members will meet face-to-face to review and collaborate on curriculum between the institutions.
  • All institutions need to be able to access student records and transcripts electronically for a regular review.

The shared data needs to inform academic advising—for example, by identifying mixes of courses that tend to work well for students—and mixes that don’t.  Another example: the data has already shown SUNY Oswego that the longer students delay taking the required math course, the harder it becomes for them to graduate. Knowing this, they can design advising interventions to encourage students to take the math class early.

Finally, it will be key to meet as much of students’ financial need as possible and provide financial literacy advising.

Why You Should Watch this Project

These institutions are partnering “to make our region stronger,” Clemo says, and we are excited about their commitment to improving the quality of life for the region with a model that we hope proves to be successful, cost-effective and sustainable.

At your own institution, have you seen success with collaborative efforts between regional institutions and your own to improve student success?