Olympic College and WWU focus on opportunities for transfer students

Olympic College and Western Washington University are strengthening their partnership to increase enrollment in the community college and encourage more Olympic Peninsula residents to continue on to earn their four-year degrees at WWU. Washington’s rapid growth and development as a global hub of innovation and commerce has created enormous opportunities in education, technology, and employment, but the state’s students and working people haven’t had equal access to these opportunities. This trend has only intensified during the pandemic years, and it’s been particularly acute in areas on the Olympic Peninsula (Washington Student Achievement Council, 2020).

Now, the two institutions have completed a strategic plan committing to increasing community college transfer rates and supporting more students with resources to complete their bachelor’s degrees. 

“Most students entering Olympic College and other community colleges across the state intend to earn bachelor’s degrees, but too few complete the journey,” said Olympic College President Marty Cavalluzzi. “Olympic College and Western have committed to change that reality through their existing partnership and expansion of strategic support for our students’ success.” Based on U.S. Department of Education data, just over 40 percent complete their degree within six years. 

The plan outlines several goals that both Western and OC will measure during the next five years. These include: 

  • Increasing the percentage of students who earn associate degrees at Olympic College.
  • Increasing the percentage of OC associate degree holders who transfer to Western.
  • Increasing the percentage of OC transfer students who earn a bachelor’s degree at Western within two, three and four years.
  • Improve the achievement outcomes of historically under-served students.

To reach these goals, OC and Western plan to expand early communication with students on pathways to success, improve student’s ability to transfer credits, and reduce overall costs of getting a degree. The two institutions are also working to identify the degrees that are the highest priority for the regional workforce – and expanding access to them – while offering tailored support to individual students.

“Washington’s universities play an important role in helping improve access to (economic) opportunities by increasing enrollment and retention while eliminating achievement gaps for students from diverse or under-represented backgrounds, working histories and age groups,” said Robert Squires, vice provost for Outreach and Continuing Education at Western.

OC and Western have collaborated over the last decade to expand higher education access on the Olympic Peninsula. That collaboration gained ground in recent years when WWU and Olympic College joined the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Aspen Institute’s Transfer Student Success Intensive, an initiative to build partnerships between community colleges and four-year institutions working to accelerate transfer reform.