Lincoln University creating transfer agreements to better retention

The Lincoln University campus. (News Tribune file)
The Lincoln University campus. (News Tribune file)

Lincoln University is establishing pathways for students at two-year colleges to get four-year degrees.

And the model is expected to set Lincoln on a course for better enrollment and retention figures, LU President John Moseley said.

"With where enrollment is, we have seats in upper-division courses that fit suitably with transfers," Moseley said. "So students could come in directly into their major after having completed their general college requirements."

Lincoln formalized its latest agreement Monday with College of Lake County in Illinois. The LU-CLC Guaranteed Admission Program provides students an opportunity to enroll at Lincoln upon meeting certain criteria at College of Lake County, such as specific coursework and a minimum number of transferable credit hours. Admitted students are given Lincoln's Connection Scholarship, which reduces tuition to the rate Missouri students pay.

"College of Lake County is committed to ensuring access to high quality higher education that is affordable and culturally relevant," CLC President Lori Suddick said in a statement. "Through the Guaranteed Admission Program with Lincoln University, affordable paths to a bachelor's degree to support a student's ongoing academic achievement and personal growth are achieved. We appreciate the collaborative partnership and commitment of Lincoln University to establish this transfer opportunity for CLC graduates."

Moseley said the arrangement will streamline the process for students at CLC to enroll and take courses at Lincoln, even providing the potential for students to take courses at both institutions at the same time.

"We're doing this with a number of universities right now," he said. "They actually reached out to us, initially, to begin the conversation because of their desire to create a pathway for some of their students to HBCUs."

Lincoln is the second HBCU to form a partnership with CLC behind Tennessee State University.

Moseley said the number of transfer agreements and partnerships Lincoln is forming with community colleges is growing.

Last year, it established transfer agreements with City Colleges of Chicago, a public community college system of seven colleges in the Chicago area, and California Community Colleges, the nation's largest higher education system with 116 colleges on the west coast.

Lincoln also has an agreement with State Technical College of Missouri that allows students studying at the technical college to live on Lincoln's campus. The agreement also offers students studying business at State Tech to continue their education at Lincoln with transferred credits.

Moseley said Lincoln is working on similar agreements with Metropolitan Community College, a public community college system with five campuses around Kansas City, and State Fair Community College in Sedalia.

"As we continue to build on the recruitment model that we have in place with recruiters from the areas that have produced a great number of students, we'd like to sign similar agreements with community colleges in those areas," he said.

Student enrollment and retention have been long-standing issues at Lincoln.

Jefferson City's historically Black university had 1,833 students enrolled last fall and turned the tide on a decade of dwindling enrollment with a 2 percent increase.

Fall 2022 marked the university's first overall enrollment increase since 2011 and the first increase in new students since 2017.

But Lincoln retained less than half of its fall 2021 cohort, according to campus census numbers. The 49 percent of students who stayed this year is consistent with the university's average for the past decade.

A major factor in students dropping out, according to administrators, is the lack of college preparation students bring to the open-enrollment university.

Moseley said community colleges have done well to provide students with a foundation needed to be successful at a four-year institution. The students Lincoln will receive from them "obviously achieved some level of academic success at the community college level," he said.

"I think it helps us academically to have students that need two years to complete their bachelor's (degree)," Moseley said. "There's minimal overhead involved in educating juniors and seniors at this point because of the spaces that we have in our academic majors."

The university wants to push enrollment to about 2,000 students for fall 2023, Director of Admissions Danisha Williams previously told the News Tribune.

"Each year we're going to work aggressively to continue to increase that," she said. "We have so many initiatives on the table: MOUs with community colleges, State Fair being one, and bringing back our summer bridge program. It's just so much going on at Lincoln and so we want that to translate to more enrolled students."

Moseley said he doesn't necessarily expect to see immediate results from the transfer agreements because it may take a couple years to be fully worked in and used.

The agreement with State Fair Community College, expected to be formalized next month, would likely be the most immediate return because it's aimed at students who have already expressed interest in attending Lincoln, Moseley said.

Initial drafts of the agreement would allow students receiving Missouri's A+ Scholarship, which provides up to two years of free community college for eligible students, to take advantage of coursework at Lincoln.

Moseley said it's a "game-changer" for Lincoln.