On March 25, the American Dream was on display when more than 72 students and faculty members from seven of the Commonwealth’s community colleges gathered in the Lincoln Campus Center for a day of orientation, recruitment, communication, and financial advice about attending the UMass Amherst College of Engineering. The event, the college’s 35th annual Community College Day, was a showcase for young people in Massachusetts pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.
Many attendees were underrepresented minorities and economically challenged students who are using their own grit, determination, and the Commonwealth’s higher education system to better themselves and see their dreams come true. The event is also one of the main yearly venues for the College of Engineering to recruit talented, highly motivated, minority students from Massachusetts.
In one session, a panel of current transfer students from community colleges to UMass Amherst talked about their own personal experiences getting here. Students attended from the following community colleges: Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, Springfield Technical Community College, Mass Bay Community College in Framingham, Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, and Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester.
“These are some of the most academically determined students anywhere,” said Greg Brown, the director of recruitment & transfer affairs at the College of Engineering, “and using the public higher education system to its full advantage.”
A large proportion of the community college transfers to the College of Engineering are students of color with many economic barriers to overcome. In fact, community colleges provide the college with its largest proportion of non-traditional engineering students, meaning those who are women or students of color or both. And typically these students don’t blow their big chance at higher education. Students from community college backgrounds have an 85 percent retention rate at the College of Engineering, as compared to a 55 percent retention rate for general freshmen admissions. (March 2010)