Capital University and Columbus State Community College announced a new partnership that the institutions say will help nontraditional students have increased success at earning four-year degrees.

Capital and Columbus State kicked off the Foundations of Excellence -- Transfer Focus project Feb. 8 with a joint meeting at Capital of the institution's leaders and steering committees leading the work. The project also includes the John N. Gardner Institute, a Brevard, North Carolina-based nonprofit organization working to improve higher education outcomes.

"We have an array of people in Columbus and they need pathways to get through higher education to realize great potential in their lives. They need different pathways," said Capital President Elizabeth Paul. "In Columbus, we offer all pathways that can provide a pathway to success for these diverse individuals. That is what this partnership does."

At the Feb. 8 meeting, steering committees from Capital and Columbus State shared information and data about students who transfer from the public community college to the private university.

"At Columbus State, we talk about aligning our people processes and technology around the student experience. What if we do that collectively?" said Columbus State President David Harrison.

The purpose of the FOE project is "to really try to create those kind of pathways around the student lifestyle, instead of forcing them to fit our model," he said.

The FOE initiative is an extension of a project Capital launched in 2012 with the Gardner Institute, following a self-study of the university's support of traditional undergraduate students during their first year of college, Capital administrators said. The new FOE initiative will include developing systems that allow Columbus State students to access Capital resources, including dual enrollment, student housing, libraries, student organizations and athletics.

Studies show the more engaged college students are in campus life, the more likely they are to successfully complete degrees, said John Gardner, the Gardner Institute's chairman and chief executive officer.

"This work is needed more than ever. The fastest-growing sub-population of college students in the United States are transfer students," he said. "More than 50 percent of students enrolled in college today are pursuing a bachelor's degree with credits from more than one institution. It's only a minority of students who start at one place and complete all their educational aspirations at one institution."

Gardner said Capital and Columbus State will work over the next year to share institutional practices, policies and data. Nine committees composed of staff, faculty and students from Capital and Columbus State will determine what works and what doesn't in order to increase transfer students' success.

The second phase of the FOE initiative is scheduled for completion in spring 2020, but Capital and Columbus State will adjust immediately, as needed, as new ways to optimize its transfer program are discovered, Capital administrators said.

Capital and the Gardner Institute will also co-host the Ohio Undergraduate Education Conference: Inspiring Practices for Student Success on Feb. 27. Presenters from more than 23 institutions representing all Ohio higher-education sectors will present nearly 40 sessions and workshops at Capital. Three pre-conference workshops will be offered Feb. 26.

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