Junior college students deserve the best as well

Institutions of higher learning with a reputation for being unaffordable and elitist are finally attempting to open their doors to students who may be a bit lighter in the pocketbook – those who drive a Honda Civic rather than a Mercedes Benz SL 500.

Schools such as the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan are two of eight universities participating in this endeavor. According to an Associated Press story, the schools will be putting up $20 million of their own money, with an additional $7 million to be donated by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Cooke, who passed away in 1997, was a student during the Great Depression who had to put his education on hold so that he could work and support his family, according to the Foundation’s Web site.

“I have always had a will to succeed, to win, however you want to phrase it,” Cooke said to the Washington Post in 1996. “I think most kids have that, but it’s knocked out of them because as young people they try so many things, and they fail – and they settle for less than the best.”

So Cooke’s foundation and these eight schools are giving those kids a chance to succeed. The schools stepping up in this way to help students really sets the bar for other institutions, such as Harvard and Yale. However, while the concept of transfer students may be foreign to those in the Ivy League, taking transfer students in from community colleges is old hat at USF.

According to the Spring 2006 Preliminary Enrollment Profile, more than half of USF’s new students this semester were transfer students. Out of 2,741 new students this semester, 1,817 were transfer students and 277 were first-time-in-college (FTIC) students. Transfer students outnumbered FTIC students in Fall 2005 as well, 4,009 to 3,956.

Unfortunately, the eight schools are going to be serving only a combined 1,100 students over four years. It seems they could be doing more, but with costs of tuition and support staff, this is probably a more realistic goal that should be expanded as funding grows.

This goes to show that universities concerned with prestige and giving students the full “four-year experience” can no longer ignore transfer students who cannot afford to attend four-year universities all four years. By doing this, universities cheat themselves out of the chance to add more prestige to their institution, as these transfer students could possess talent that needs the development only an upper-level education can provide. For once, these institutions could take a cue from USF instead of vice versa.