Beginning with the graduating high school class of 2015, the Tennessee Promise program provides "last-dollar" scholarships and mentoring programs focused on increasing the number of students at any of the state's 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institution offering an associate's degree. In its inaugural class, about 58,000 students (90% of Tennessee's senior class) applied for Tennessee Promise. Thus, the faculty and administration at the University of Tennessee anticipate that transfer students are likely an increasingly important fraction of the student body. In the Tickle College of Engineering, transfer student enrollment has increased at an average rate of 10% per year over the last five years. Transfer students face a unique set of challenges, which differ from those who begin their first year at a university as freshmen. The challenges are both academic--adapting to the reduction in individual attention with university coursework--and social--lacking a well-defined peer-cohort with whom the adjustment to university life can be shared. In engineering, transfer students also statistically represent a different demographic population than the student body of entering freshmen (the fraction of first-generation college students is double (32% compared to 15%) among transfer students, which can potentially bring cultural challenges as well. These challenges manifest in an unfortunate fact: currently the fraction of engineering transfer students who do not graduate within 5 years is nearly double (29% to 15%) that of traditional engineering students who have an analogous two years of college behind them. Finally, existing programs for financial aid are disproportionately distributed to students who enter the university system as freshmen relative to transfer students. The objective of the TranSCEnD program at the University of Tennessee is to increase the retention of engineering transfer students to a level comparable to engineering students, who entered the Tickle College of Engineering as freshmen. A program which spans a five-year process--two years at the community college, a summer bridge program, and three years at the University of Tennessee--is proposed. Activities include faculty exchange between institutions, student skills seminars, sustained mentoring, intra-cohort peer learning, and inter-cohort peer-teaching. The individual elements of the program as well as the synergistic integration of elements have been chosen to balance two influences: (1) a program designed with theoretical influence from Tinto’s Theory of Voluntary Student Departure, and (2) a practical acknowledgment of demonstrated success at the University of Tennessee. This paper will provide a summary of the TranSCEnD program as well as provide an update on current activities from the grant team.
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