When Drake University psychology majors Sarah Lowe and Makenna Wade were asked to sum up their recent transfer student experiences, each answered with the same two words: surprisingly easy. Both women started their higher education journeys at Iowa community colleges, and through new developments in common transfer majors with private colleges, they experienced seamless and successful transitions to their four-year degree programs.

Sarah Lowe
Sarah Lowe

For Lowe, 20, she always knew that she would transfer to a four-year institution after earning her associate degree from Indian Hills Community College. Her pathway toward psychology began through concurrent enrollment opportunities in high school where she earned a year’s worth of college credits prior to graduation in 2021. While at Indian Hills the following year, she received guidance on her transfer major and what classes would be the most optimal to take to streamline her credit transfer and add in a second major of neuroscience.

“My associate degree in psychology transferred seamlessly,” she said. “I was able to speak with a specific transfer adviser at Drake who gave me a run down of the pathway that I could go into. I really liked that they have specific information for transfer students.”

The development of transfer majors between community colleges and private colleges has been picking up steam during recent years. It builds upon the model used between community colleges and Iowa’s Regent universities that provides a course discipline framework for students to build a common foundation of skills and credits that can easily transfer to four-year institutions. With dedicated transfer majors, students can maximize their time, tuition costs and credits and map out clearer pathways to degrees and success.

“This collaboration between community colleges and private colleges really does help to reduce the number of lost or unnecessary credits for students who want to eventually transfer to a four-year institution,” said Heather Meissen, education program consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. “The work group known as the Iowa Private Transfer Collaborative consists of 17 private colleges and community colleges that are working together to streamline transfer experiences.”

Private college transfer majors not only assist students with transitioning to new campuses, they also can help both community colleges and private colleges market their courses to potential students.

“At Drake, we are seeing a growing number of transfer students who have already earned their associate degree,” said Lauren McCarthy, senior academic advising specialist for Drake University. “It makes sense for us to provide a clear path to their degrees in the shortest time possible.”

Makenna Wade
Makenna Wade

Wade, 26, decided to pursue a psychology degree and transfer to Drake due to her own positive experiences in therapy. She switched her college pathway from computer science and earned an associate degree in psychology at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). For this pathway, Wade knew she would need to obtain a four-year degree and beyond to meet her career goals.

“I started considering what schools I wanted to go to,” she said. “I wanted a college that I could stay with for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. And I wanted a place that offered a master’s program in clinical counseling, not just psychology.”

Wade transferred to Drake this fall and, like Lowe, had a simple transfer process with assistance from Drake transfer advisers.

“It was actually a smooth and straightforward process,” she said. “I kept in contact with the transfer adviser and chose my remaining classes at DMACC based upon what would transfer easily. I didn’t lose any credits.”

Currently, 20 different transfer majors, such as psychology, business, chemistry, elementary education, political science and more, are featured across eight private colleges.

To assist with the further development of transfer majors for private colleges, grant funding has been dedicated to the work through the Iowa Private Transfer Collaborative. Along with stipends for faculty to work on the initiative, a project director dedicated to private transfer majors will be hired to help develop a website and coordinate efforts.

“It’s exciting to see new developments for private transfer majors,” Meissen said. “This will greatly benefit Iowa’s transfer students from community colleges.”

Department staff are also helping to spread the word on the innovative work with private college transfer major partnerships. Amy Gieseke, chief for the Bureau of Community Colleges and Postsecondary Readiness, will be leading a roundtable discussion at the Community Colleges for Iowa Tradeshow and Convention on Nov. 28-30 in Des Moines. Additionally, Meissen presented on transfer major best practices to history faculty from private institutions and community colleges in mid-September and has submitted a proposal to present this initiative with two other individuals at the Higher Learning Commission Conference in April 2024.

Lowe and Wade have both reported they are enjoying their first semester at Drake and have big dreams for their potential careers. Lowe is interested in behavioral pharmacology and research while Wade is passionate about becoming a licensed mental health counselor. For now, they are getting used to their new campus and classes, and after their positive transfer experiences, they are ready to move forward and find further success.  

“I had a great transfer experience,” Lowe said. “Higher education is a big decision, and I’m glad I found my path.”

National Transfer Student Week runs Oct. 16-20.

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