Pathway to the Baccalaureate Program: Participants’ Use of Services and Its Impact on the Transfer Process

Tanneh Kamara

Major Professor: Jaime Lester, PhD, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Committee Members: John O'Connor, Todd Rose

Enterprise Hall, #418
November 20, 2012, 12:00 PM to 09:00 AM


Research indicates that first-generation students are a major part of the community college student population.  They are more likely to attend community college, have household incomes less than $20,000, and are often fluent in a language other than English.  Although the research on transfer students is voluminous, little is known about transfer from the perspectives of first-generation and underrepresented students.  This study contributes to our understanding of the transfer process from the perspectives of those students.

The Pathways to the Baccalaureate Program is a model of a successful partnership established in 2005 between George Mason University (GMU), Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), and 31 partner high schools in Alexandria City, Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties to support transfer students.  The Program served as the backdrop for this mixed-method study, which assessed the types of programs and services students utilized to successfully transition from NVCC to GMU or another 4-year institution. 

The study sought to determine the following:

  1. How does the Program address barriers to student transfer?
  2. How do students engage in and find useful Program activities?
  3. What aspects of the Program have the greatest impact on transfer student success (defined as progress toward and completion of a bachelor degree)?

A quantitative survey was used to assess the participants’ experiences in the Program, determine their transfer intentions, knowledge of the transfer process, and perceptions of barriers to the transfer process.  The qualitative portion of the study relied on a focus group with the Program participants and interviews with the Program personnel to understand how external, individual, and internal factors contribute to and/or prohibit successful progression toward the baccalaureate degree.

Based on the research questions, the study concluded the following:  1) finance as it relates to financial aid eligibility requirements, paying for books and supplies, and personal financial responsibilities are perceived as barriers to the transfer process;  2) the participants utilized their assigned Pathway counselors, transfer websites of GMU or another 4-year institution, GMU liaison, and transfer counselors at other 4-year institutions to successfully transition from NVCC to GMU or another 4-year institution of their choosing; and 3)  individualized academic advising, leadership support, relationships with students, and partnerships with the high schools and GMU were identified by the program personnel as contributing factors to transfer success while the students identified their relationships with their assigned counselors as the most important component of their transfer process.