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Seamless Transfer Pathways

How might community colleges and four-year universities dramatically improve transfer and graduation rates by reframing the end-to-end experience from the student’s point of view?


Beginning in Fall 2017, the Lab, with funding from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, led an intensive design challenge to re-design the student transfer experience. Research shows that 80% of students who enroll in one of our nation’s community colleges every year express an intent to complete a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution. Yet, in the end, only 25% make the leap to a four-year school within five years, and only 17% complete a four-year degree within six years of transferring. Over two years, the Lab engaged a cohort of four transfer partnerships in a structured human-centered design process, providing access to subject matter experts, coaches and design specialists to help the teams develop transformative solutions. The Seamless Transfer Pathways pilots launched in fall 2019 and results will be tracked through 2025.


Apprenticeship Challenge

How might we build a meaningful apprenticeship that supports curricular and workforce readiness goals into a 4-year degree?

Archived Project from 2014


The four-month design challenge identified the college within George Mason University that was most anxious to be the apprenticeship partner, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, whose students were hungry to combine real world skills with their liberal arts coursework. From there, the design work moved on three tracks: curriculum, credit and business model, with an additional student track that looked at timing within the degree and how to market the program. The program benefits for a university became clear:

  • Offer a unique program to place students in paid workplace environments with designated senior mentors treating them as regular employees (unlike most internships)
  • Provide work opportunities to Mason’s large population of first-generation college students who value professional work experience but need paid opportunities
  • Attract new, out-of-state students who will see Mason as a way to apply to Enstitute’s program
  • Establish relationships with new employers: startups, technology companies, and social enterprises
  • Close the gap between higher education and workforce, as policy makers are demanding today
  • Launch an innovative program that fits the president’s vision for a 21st century university