A transfer agreement between Iowa’s largest and most diverse community college and one of the state’s most elite private colleges is starting to bear fruit for students. The first two Des Moines Area Community College students have successfully transferred to Grinnell College.
Students Jazmine Bjelland of Newton and Lauren Rousch of Kellogg both graduated with associate’s degrees in Liberal Arts from DMACC’s Newton Campus. Bjelland is now studying to be an English teacher at Grinnell, while Rousch is an art major.
Both students said some of the same qualities that drew them to DMACC also made Grinnell and attractive choice.
“I really enjoyed DMACC,” said Rousch, who’s considering a career in either fine art teaching or art therapy. “I thought DMACC was a good transition from high school to a four-year college. They were really helpful and it was a small school and I liked that. That was kind of the same feeling I got from Grinnell.”
Bjelland grew up about two blocks from DMACC’s Newton Campus. She was attracted by DMACC’s proximity, small size and affordability. Bjelland planned to transfer from DMACC to Grinnell even before the formalized transfer agreement was in place. She found Grinnell attractive due to its high academic standards and history of being active in the area of social justice. She believes the DMACC-Grinnell agreement played at least some part in turning her transfer plans into a reality.
“Since I was one of the first people to transfer through this program I’m kind of a little bit of a guinea pig when it comes to transferring credit,” said Bjelland. “They (Grinnell staff) told me if there were any problems, let us know and we’ll work them out with you.”
Rousch came to Grinnell in a bit more of a round-about fashion. Taking advantage of the DMACC Newton Career Academy classes, Rousch was able to earn Certified Nursing Assistant and Advanced CNA credentials through DMACC while still in high school.
After high school, Rousch’s CNA credentials allowed her to both earn money to finance her DMACC education and to become familiar with Grinnell.
“I got a job working in the dorm with a girl who attended Grinnell from Georgia,” Rousch said. “I would stay in the room with her and go to classes with her and would support her with doing just daily stuff that she couldn’t do for herself. I just got a good feel for Grinnell from doing that.”
Existence of the transfer agreement encouraged Rousch to turn that good feeling into an application to Grinnell. Dr. Laura Douglas, Provost of DMACC’s Des Moines Urban Campus, said the agreement is having a similar impact on other DMACC students.
“The agreement has put Grinnell College on students’ radar screens,” said Douglas, who played a major role in working out the agreement. “Until the partnership, many of our students did not see Grinnell as a possibility; they felt it was out of reach both financially and academically. Now, they recognize Grinnell as an institution of higher education that is welcoming and supportive of DMACC graduates. They have also learned that due to a variety of available financial supports, the cost of studying at Grinnell is more reasonable than what they had originally assumed.”
Douglas said DMACC students who express interest in Grinnell often participate in DMACC-organized trips to Grinnell to learn more about the college, meet key administrators, discuss the transfer process and tour the campus.
“The willingness of the Grinnell faculty and staff to accept DMACC students and discuss additional opportunities to partner with us has been inspiring,” said Douglas. “Our partnership is just getting off the ground and the possibilities are endless. We are the only community in Iowa that has this exclusive agreement with Grinnell.”
This agreement represents the first-ever partnership between Grinnell and any two-year college.
“Grinnell’s mission includes assisting those who may choose a non-traditional path toward a four-year degree,” Grinnell President Raynard Kington said when the agreement was announced. “We have been looking for ways to encourage more Iowa students to consider Grinnell College, and we are particularly pleased to partner with DMACC to provide this opportunity to high-achieving students.”