Many community college students experience economic insecurity and, if social work students, come from the vulnerable groups and neighborhoods of their future clients. A recent study by the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL) reported that one-third of community college students experience housing insecurity, and 12% experience food insecurity (Wood, Harris, & Delgado, 2016). The social work profession would benefit from graduating more social workers who have intimate knowledge of poverty and vulnerability. Yet, students may not attain their goals without support, guidance, and a clear transfer process requiring considerable institutional commitment.
CCEAL data are consistent with research showing transfer rates from community college to four-year institutions differ by social background, particularly parental socioeconomic status (SES). According to Dougherty and Kienzl (2006), students whose parents have a higher income and higher-status jobs have a large and statistically significant advantage in transfer over their lower socioeconomic status peers. If transfer from a community college is a gateway to a professional four-year degree and an avenue for upward mobility (CCRC, 2015), then the authors argue we need to look at how low SES hampers the transfer process, particularly for students transferring to professional majors.
We bring diverse perspectives to this roundtable as faculty directors from BSW/MSW programs in large, regional comprehensive public universities and two-year community college programs that developed Associate degrees in Social Work. We will provide perspectives on the need for smooth academic transfer for social work students and all students who do not possess the social or economic capital to begin college. We will discuss the academic transfer, statewide articulation agreements, the unique needs of transfer students in field education, and the challenges presented by state educational systems that do not provide advanced social work degrees through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) or Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). When we talk about battling inequities and building solutions, we must do this in our own institutions of professional education.
When transfer students complete a four-year BSW degree in an accredited program and progress to an advanced standing MSW degree, community college programs are the first step in the accredited social work education continuum. Given the growth in transfer students and their diversities in social work programs, this first step in the continuum deserves greater attention.