For many high school students in Michigan, the path to a bachelor’s degree begins at a community college. As the state government creates new efforts to make community college free through programs such as Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners, the University of Michigan is preparing to serve community college students in new ways, building pathways that support students before, during, and after they transfer to Ann Arbor.

The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) at the University of Michigan, in partnership with Henry Ford College, announced today that its Transfer Bridges to the Humanities@Michigan program has received $3.4 million in grant funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

The new funding, received by U-M and Henry Ford College, will help the program expand efforts to recruit and retain humanities students from two additional community colleges, Schoolcraft College in Livonia and Grand Rapids Community College, to the University of Michigan. It is a renewal of $1.6 million in funding received in 2018 to establish Transfer Bridges, designed to increase the number of students transferring from Henry Ford College to LSA. 

The program is just one of the ways LSA and the university are working to create a more diverse and inclusive student community that is reflective of the state’s population, by creating an opportunity for more nontraditional students and students from underrepresented communities and low-income households to attend U-M.

“We are excited to receive this grant from the Mellon Foundation and continue our efforts to bring transfer students to U-M,” said Tim McKay, associate dean for undergraduate education at LSA. “This grant lays the foundation on which we’re building a larger partnership with all 28 public community colleges across Michigan. Students may start their educational journey at community college for a number of reasons, but Transfer Bridges shows that the journey to the University of Michigan is not impossible. In fact, it is just the opposite. They have what it takes to be successful here and this program makes that path open.”

Transfer Bridges is designed for students at community colleges who are majoring in the humanities and want to transfer to the University of Michigan to complete a bachelor's degree. The program prepares them for academic and community life at U-M, with dedicated mentorship, advising tailored to their academic needs, learning and social experiences, faculty connections, and the financial support needed to help them earn their degree.

The new funding from the Mellon Foundation will support paid, high-impact learning experiences for humanities students during the summer, including undergraduate research, internships, and service-based learning projects, while they are still enrolled in community college. The program currently provides academic opportunities through three LSA-based units: the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), optiMize, and the Engelhardt Social Justice Fellowship

For many community college students, finances can be an obstacle when transferring to a four-year institution. Transfer Bridges aims to alleviate that strain through these paid learning experiences, and to connect students with financial aid resources such as the Go Blue Guarantee.

“My primary reasons for attending a community college first were financial freedom and family. I am the child of Lebanese immigrants and have close familial ties to my hometown,” said Yasmeen Berry, a third-year student who transferred to U-M from Henry Ford College. “The Transfer Bridges program is what made my transition to the University of Michigan possible. The incredible coordinators associated with it are genuinely invested in students’ success. Ultimately, through the opportunities provided as part of the Transfer Bridges program, I have gained and continue to attain valuable experiences with my mentors that will forever shape my future career.”

“One of the reasons why [transfer] students don’t apply is because they assume they won’t fit in,” said Nick Turinsky, transfer recruiting coordinator for the LSA Transfer Bridges program. “Our program is designed to dismantle that belief and break down those feelings of self-doubt. We know they are more than capable to thrive at U-M, and we have seen the results. They just need to see themselves here.”

Transfer Bridges’ successful outcomes are a testament to how providing access and support can make the lasting difference for students looking to transfer to U-M. As of fall 2021, 100 percent of program participants who applied to U-M were admitted and decided to attend. Since the launch of Transfer Bridges, no program participants have withdrawn from U-M, which exceeds the retention rate of traditional first-year students at the university.

“The Transfer Bridges program helped me to feel not so alone throughout the process,” said Keirra Scott, a recent LSA alum who transferred to U-M from Henry Ford College. “Before I attended the University of Michigan, I knew people and had people I could go to with any questions or concerns, which made my experience a little less intimidating. My daughter Kiemora and I are forever grateful for this life-changing experience.”

To learn more about Transfer Bridges to the Humanities@Michigan, visit the website.

Statements from Partner Schools
Robert Yahrmatter, Associate Dean, School of Liberal Arts, Henry Ford College:

“Henry Ford College is honored to partner with the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in the Mellon grant. We are very excited to return to campus and encourage our students to consider transferring to Ann Arbor and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Our goal is to triple the number of students who transfer in the humanities in the next 3 years. Here is to our students’ success, both here at Henry Ford and when they transfer.”

Michele Kelly, Dean, Liberal Arts & Sciences, Schoolcraft College:

“This generous award enhances access to the kind of high impact experiences that will make Schoolcraft students more competitive for elite institutions like University of Michigan. We intend to re-organize our successful signature programs (e.g. Honors Scholars, Service Learning) under a new framework called the Center for Experiential Learning. Exciting new engagement opportunities will also be introduced and are especially designed for students who intend to transfer.”

Sheila Jones, Dean of Instructional Support, Grand Rapids Community College:

“We are very excited about how this grant will benefit GRCC students in providing a more seamless transfer bridge to the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. Our college has a longstanding connection to the University of Michigan, dating back to GRCC's founding. We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for recognizing this partnership as well as the need to provide the support that this program offers to community college students pursuing degrees in the humanities and social sciences. I'm proud of the work that our faculty and staff have been doing with this program over the last few years and am looking forward to expanding it so that we can impact more of our students.”