By: 
Thomas W. Durso
Honoree: 
Governors State University

Elaine Maimon doesn’t mince words when she hears her fellow four-year university presidents complain about the quality of community college students who transfer to their school.

“Universities have not done anything to inspire students to have a coherent experience at the community colleges,” says Maimon, who heads up Governors State University in Illinois. “We at the universities have a responsibility to partner with the community colleges to make sure the students have the best possible chance of having a coherent, quality experience throughout their four years.”

Research shows students who earn associate’s degrees by attending two-year schools full-time earn their bachelor’s degrees at much higher rates. Full-time attendance is therefore a requirement of Governors State’s Dual Degree Program, a partnership with 17 community colleges.

Success Data Points

  • 286: Students who have graduated from their community colleges and transferred to Governors State
  • 94%: Portion of these Dual Degree Program students who have graduated from Governors State or are still enrolled there or another institution
  • 45%: Dual Degree Program transfers who are students of color

Research highlights the need for more structured pathways for baccalaureate-bound community college students who have two sets of institutional requirements and bureaucracies to deal with.

The Dual Degree Program’s advisers help community colleges students plan to complete both degrees, whether they will attend Governors State or another four-year institution.

The aim is to put community college students—whom Maimon calls an underserved population—into the best position to succeed.

“Some students are going to benefit more from a four-year experience on a single campus,” says Maimon, who speaks about the Dual Degree Program at conferences across the country. “But there are vast numbers of students who are choosing to begin at a community college and see that as the right pathway for them.”

Besides analyzing enrollment, retention and graduation data, Governors State conducts focus groups with its dual-degree students to solicit feedback on how to improve the program.

“We are advocating for the community college student,” says Maimon. “We are advocating for the community colleges.”