CTI grant aims to improve transfer student success

From left: CTI's Christine H. Groah and Elizabeth E. Getzel
From left: CTI's Christine H. Groah and Elizabeth E. Getzel

The VCU Center on Transition Innovations (CTI), part of the VCU School of Education’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, has received a $360,000 ECMC Foundation grant to study the mental health challenges and needs of community college students.

“This study is a great opportunity for VCU, especially considering its commitment to transfer student success,” said Elizabeth E. Getzel, CTI director and Principal investigator in the study. “This commitment is evidenced by the establishment of the VCU Transfer Center and the development of transfer maps with four community colleges.”

The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) reports that almost 60 percent of community college graduates are currently in transfer programs to a four-year institution.

The 2.5-year grant, Identifying the Experiences of Two-Year College Students Seeking Mental Health Support, will include conducting focus groups with community college students who have been identified as having mental health challenges, as well as structured interviews with representatives from each of the 23 community colleges in Virginia. The resulting data will be used to develop a survey for community college students in Virginia.

“These surveys will focus on the current experiences of community college students in Virginia, and what concerns they have about transferring to a four-year college, if this is part of their plan,” said Getzel. The survey results will be shared with state legislators, community groups, the community college system and higher education institutions.

Christine H. Groah, CTI assistant director and Co-Principal investigator, said that the study is also timely, given that VCCS Chancellor Glen DuBois recently appointed a task force to study, define and make recommendations for addressing community college students’ mental health barriers, which include stress, food and housing insecurities, and financial concerns..

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to partner on addressing these students’ needs,” Groah said. “There are so many ways that our study can inform the task force’s work and help to identify ways to better support transfer students.”