Mellon grant designed to help more students transfer to U-M


For many high school students in Michigan, the path to a bachelor’s degree begins at a community college, and the University of Michigan is building pathways that support those students before, during and after they transfer to Ann Arbor.

LSA, in partnership with Henry Ford College, has announced its Transfer Bridges to the Humanities@Michigan program has received a $3.4 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The new funding, received by both schools, will help the program expand efforts to recruit to and retain at U-M humanities students from two additional community colleges: Schoolcraft College in Livonia and Grand Rapids Community College.

It comes as the state of Michigan creates new efforts to make community college free through programs such as the Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners programs.

The grant renews $1.6 million in funding from 2018 to establish Transfer Bridges, which was designed to increase the number of students transferring from Henry Ford College to LSA.

The program is one way LSA and the university are working to create a more diverse and inclusive student community that reflects the state’s population, by creating an opportunity for more nontraditional students and students from underrepresented communities and low-income households to attend U-M.

“We are excited to receive this grant from the Mellon Foundation and continue our efforts to bring transfer students to U-M,” said Tim McKay, associate dean for undergraduate education at LSA. “This grant lays the foundation on which we’re building a larger partnership with all 28 public community colleges across Michigan.

“Students may start their educational journey at community college for a number of reasons, but Transfer Bridges shows that the journey to the University of Michigan is not impossible. In fact, it is just the opposite. They have what it takes to be successful here, and this program makes that path open.”

Transfer Bridges is designed for community college students who are majoring in the humanities and want to transfer to U-M to complete a bachelor’s degree. The program prepares them for academic and community life at U-M, with dedicated mentorship, advising tailored to their academic needs, learning and social experiences, faculty connections, and the financial support needed to help them earn their degree.

The new Mellon Foundation funding will support paid, high-impact learning experiences for humanities students during the summer — including undergraduate research, internships and service-based learning projects — while they are still enrolled in community college.

The program currently provides academic opportunities through three LSA-based units: the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, optiMize, and the Engelhardt Social Justice Fellowship.

For many community college students, finances can be an obstacle when transferring to a four-year institution. Transfer Bridges aims to alleviate that strain through these paid learning experiences, and to connect students with financial aid resources such as the Go Blue Guarantee.

“My primary reasons for attending a community college first were financial freedom and family. I am the child of Lebanese immigrants and have close familial ties to my hometown,” said Yasmeen Berry, a third-year student who transferred to U-M from Henry Ford College. “The Transfer Bridges program is what made my transition to the University of Michigan possible.”

“One of the reasons why (transfer) students don’t apply is because they assume they won’t fit in,” said Nick Turinsky, transfer recruiting coordinator for Transfer Bridges.

“Our program is designed to dismantle that belief and break down those feelings of self-doubt. We know they are more than capable to thrive at U-M, and we have seen the results. They just need to see themselves here,” Turinsky said.

Transfer Bridges’ successful outcomes are a testament to how providing access and support can make the lasting difference for students looking to transfer to U-M.

As of fall 2021, 100 percent of program participants who applied to U-M were admitted and decided to attend. Since the launch of Transfer Bridges, no program participants have withdrawn from U-M, which exceeds the retention rate of traditional first-year students at the university.


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