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Central Washington University

CWU Transfer Symposium Draws Record Numbers, Highlighting Statewide Cooperation

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Representatives from Central Washington University and two-year institutions around the state gathered Feb. 5 via Zoom for the third annual CWU Transfer Symposium, “Unprecedented Transfer-mations: A Journey Together Toward Growth and Understanding.”

A record-high 287 people registered for the all-day virtual presentation, which was presented by faculty, staff, administrators, advisors, and financial aid counselors from CWU and Washington’s community and technical colleges. The turnout was a big jump from the 173 who attended last year and the 48 who participated in 2019.

“The vision for this symposium has grown as the demand has grown,” said Mónica Medrano, regional director for CWU-Wenatchee and Moses Lake. “One of our main goals for doing this is to create a pathway for conversation between the two- and four-year systems so we can get the word out about our transfer partnerships.”

Diversity, equity, and inclusion were given more emphasis this year, with a number of breakout sessions dedicated to marginalized and minoritized populations. 

The morning session featured speakers from the Aspen Institute (Washington, D.C.) and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, who provided a national and statewide perspective about recent developments in the transfer process.  

During the lunch hour, a panel of students from various CWU locations offered their insights about the transfer experience, while the afternoon featured a series of breakout sessions that were co-facilitated by representatives from CWU and the community and technical college sector.

“This really was a statewide effort,” Medrano said, adding that the initial symposium was made possible by Yakima Valley College’s Title V ¡FINISH! Grant. In fact, YVC has been instrumental to the CWU Transfer Symposium’s success since the beginning. 

“Yakima is our largest feeder institution and a true partner in every sense of the word,” she said.

CWU Transfer Director Megan McConnell noted how crucial these ongoing partnerships are — not just for CWU’s success but for aspiring university students across the state.

She pointed out that 80% of new community college students nationwide say they intend to transfer to a four-year institution within six years, but only about 33% of them actually do. A mere 14% of these students go on to earn a four-year degree within six years of starting college. 

In Washington state alone, she added, there are 1 million working adults with some college experience but no degree.

“There’s a barrier somewhere, but the question is where?” McConnell said. “One of the messages of the symposium was that transfer is a shared responsibility between our four-year schools and two-year institutions. We need to work together, because we can’t do it alone.”

CWU offers a built-in advantage for potential transfer students with its eight university centers and sites around the state. Students who are time- or place-bound can still pursue a degree at Central without having to uproot their lives.

The centers and sites, along with initiatives like the Transfer Symposium, provide Washingtonians with opportunities that aren’t available at every university. 

“The prioritization of transfer and transition has become a system-wide investment as we become more cognizant on the K-20 educational continuum and economic and quality of life outcomes of credential attainment,” said Lauren Hibbs, CWU’s executive director of extended learning.

One of the keys to success going forward, Medrano added, will be to keep each of CWU’s partners engaged. The Transfer Symposium was not a one-off event; it was the continuation of a growing partnership designed to empower people of all ages and economic backgrounds to pursue a brighter future through higher education.

“Our goal is to keep the conversation going,” she said. “We are planning follow-up events throughout the year so we can figure out where to go next. What are the next steps we can all take to make sure students are at the forefront of that conversation?”

Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs, David.Leder@cwu.edu, 509-963-1518.

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