Just the Facts….Changing Demographics Call for Our Attention and Action

Jack Webb, in his role as Sgt. Joe Friday in the radio and TV series “Dragnet,” famously asked many of his witnesses to state “just the facts.”  My colleague, Dr. Shelley Fortin, CEO of Community College Transfer, LLC, does just that in her recent article The Demographics Demand It – http://hbcugrow.com/the-demographics-demand-it/  This interesting piece was written for HBCU Grow – http://hbcugrow.com/  – and some of Shelley’s specific messages focus on this particular group of colleges and universities. The general lessons she shares, however, are for all of us.

U.S. Census projections predict that people of color will represent the majority of the nation’s population by 2045.  While this might seem to be a long way away, so did the current year, 2016, when I launched my career in admissions in 1979 and began studying the various population projections offered by groups like WICHE.  These past decades have passed quickly and have been filled with change.  And, it appears that this trend will continue in many significant ways.

“Students of color disproportionately begin their postsecondary careers at community colleges,” Shelley states.  She goes on to say, “The community college has shown itself to be capable of producing talented scholars. When students successfully transfer to four year institutions, they perform well, earning comparable GPA’s and graduating at comparable rates as native students.”

These emerging demographic changes, along with the economic challenges much of the U.S. population now faces and the ever-increasing competition for students, will cause many colleges to consider substantial changes in the way they develop their enrollment strategies.  Some may look more seriously at the relatively untapped pool of motivated students now attending community colleges.  Shelley offers the following: “Students who enter higher education through the community college overwhelmingly express a desire to earn bachelor’s degrees but the transfer path from community college to the bachelor’s degree is challenging and too few make it through the obstacles.”

Making these enrollment pathways possible means building strong working relationships – beyond articulation agreements – between four-year colleges and community colleges.  Institutions interested in taking this approach now have an opportunity to begin building these connections at a reasonable pace and with a reasonable level of investment. For example, they can begin with a cohort of 15-25 students, refine their programs, and then scale these up to meet their strategic plans and take advantage of future recruitment opportunities.

In my work I have found that prospective transfer students have the following questions:

  • Will I be admitted?
  • How many of my academic credits will transfer?
  • How long will it take to complete my degree?
  • What will it cost to complete my degree and will I be able to afford it?
  • Will I fit into my new campus community?

Building working partnerships between four-year colleges and community colleges can provide these students with comprehensive, intentional pathways that address these questions.  At the same time, these partnerships establish sustainable enrollment pipelines that increase completion rates and student success, preparing graduates to enter a work environment that increasingly requires college-level knowledge.

Community College Pathways (CCP) is designed to help colleges take full advantage of these new opportunities.


  • Assists four-year and community colleges build meaningful working relationships, which
  • Design and implement comprehensive and intentional transfer pathways for community college students, which
  • Result in greater student success and sustainable enrollment pipelines.

Why might this new approach to college enrollment be of interest?  A big part of the answer can be found in our country’s changing demographics…..just the facts!


Special thanks to Dr. Shelley Fortin for providing permission to share her article, The Demographics Demand It.  Shelley can be reached through her website:  www.transfermatters.com




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