Transferring from Henry Ford College

Graphic of student before a maze

Three students: Christie Miller, Makayla Owen, and Basmalah Algahmi share their experiences transferring from Henry Ford College.

Christie Miller is one of the HFC alumni who took advantage of HFC’s transfer agreement with different universities. Being in the HFC's Honors Program didn’t simply enrich her education and networking possibilities, it also presented her with a pathway to the Wayne State University Honors Program. During her time at HFC, she attended career and transfer orientations that help guide her future plans. She describes her transfer process from HFC to WSU as “painless” and advises students to apply early and keep their options open.

Miller is currently studying Exercise and Sports Science at Wayne State University with the hopes of becoming a physical therapist. As she looks into graduate programs, she feels content with her decision to attend the Honors program both at HFC and at WSU as having the Honors background has helped her stand out from other candidates.

Makayla Owens’s transferred to HFC after her freshman year at an out of state art school. She then transferred from HFC to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Throughout the transfer and adjustment process, the Transfer Bridges to Humanities (TB2H) program at HFC was her main guidance. When asked if she could do anything differently, she wishes to have attended HFC for the first two years because that would’ve been a smaller financial burden and being at HFC would have allowed her to explore her interests.

Owens's main advice to prospective transfer students is to know that it’s not inevitable. A lot of students graduate high school hoping to find the perfect college and the perfect major to spend the next four years in. The transfer process is not a romanticized aspect of higher education. “It shouldn’t have a negative connotation. People change majors all the time, so it shouldn’t be any different that you change schools,” Owens remarks. “The process is sometimes slow, sometimes stressful, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done." Owens continues, "You can come from any position, as a transfer student, you’re bringing forth an experience that’s completely unique to yourself and you have different reasons for transferring to these universities and people should hear that too. There shouldn’t be a stigma around transferring.”

Basmalah Algahmi is an HFC alumna currently studying software engineering at the University of Michigan, Dearborn. While at HFC, she turned to her friends for help as the college's transfer advising document seemed too complicated and inaccessible to her. For Algahmi, who spoke Arabic in addition to English, being able to communicate her needs with friends without having a language barrier was important. Her transfer process had been smooth for the most part. However, she wasn’t informed about all the required courses for her program. She hadn’t taken a C++ class that is a prerequisite for some of her engineering courses at UM, Ann Arbor. If she could do anything differently, she would’ve taken that course while at HFC. Her advice for future students is plan early and know all the prerequisites for their program. Algahmi also wants prospective transfer students to be hopeful about scholarships, “Take care of your GPA, you’re gonna get it,” she adds.

However there can be challenges with transferring credits in some programs. The different requirements between schools can confuse students.

Steve Glazer, instructor of art and director of exhibitions, wanted to make sure that students who are interested in art degrees are transferring to universities with a plan to get a Bachelors of Fine Arts (BAFA), not just a Bachelors of Arts (BA), since this is what the better art schools have. BAFA are sometimes 78, or more, credit hours of art out of 120. So students who have 30 credits done at HFCC are left to complete 48 out of the last 60 of art. And while this sounds like a fun experience for students, in reality it is extremely hard. Each Art class normally takes six hours a week, which most of the time doesn’t count mandatory lab hours, and at 18 credits a semester the workload can become difficult if not impossible.

Glazers says, “[We..] need to follow what some schools are doing, especially what Grand Rapids Community College is doing, and make an Associate of Fine Arts Degree.” GRCC has the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accreditation, which in 2015 was put in place.

Schools like Eastern, Western, and College of Creative Studies all abide by the NASAD standards. Glazer wanted HFC to put in place a “degree that transfers holistically into that, so that students are doing more than the 30 hours and not doing the full Michigan Transfer Agreement.” The reasoning behind this thought process is that students who don’t do more than 30 hours prior to transferring to a university are behind students who did. The students who did more don’t have to do 48 plus credit hours and are held up on what classes they can take. Currently, HFC has the Associate in Fine Arts degree, which is 40-46 hours of art classes with 16-22 hours of general education classes.

Glazer said that to transfer to a university such as Wayne State University, students would need to do the full MTA program, on top of what the AFA requires. This would mean that students would be doing 72-76 credit hours pre-transfer. Glazer was able to secure a potential verbal agreement with WSU, that students wouldn’t do a full MTA course load, but would do 43 credits of arts and 16 hours of general education courses to mimic what the universities require for general education requirements. However HFC’s registration and financial aid offices are currently reviewing if this is possible. Glazer believes the process could go smoother if there were associate degrees with the intent to transfer to specific universities, as is done at other community colleges.

HFC is one of twenty community colleges participating in the Michigan Transfer Agreement, commonly referred to as the MTA. Twenty-nine universities participate.

The MTA is intended to help students who want to transfer from a community college to a university, while making sure that the general education requirements are met before the move. This agreement replaced the old agreement of the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admission Officers, or MACRAO.

There are other programs for students who want to transfer from HFC to four-year colleges or universities. Students can use the Transfers Bridges program, which allows students to do two years of Humanities or Humanities Social Science before transferring to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor for a Bachelor's degree. While this program is open to all HFC students, it is strongly recommended to HFC Honors students.

The Henry Ford II Honors Program helps students to transfer to universities such as Wayne State University where HFC honors students can transfer directly into WSU's Irvin D. Reid Honors College. The Honors program has a similar agreement with Albion University. The new director of HFC's Honors Program, Dr. Adam Hazlett is working on an agreement with Michigan State University. The Honors Program also provides students one-on-one mentorship with a professor who can assist with the transfer process. There are also transfer scholarships that the Honors Program can assist students to apply for.

With the Transfers Bridges to the Humanities@UM program, students can earn an associate degree, like an associate of liberal arts, and they can attach a major degree to it such as a major in history or political science and transfer to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. UM Ann Arbor also offers HFC students programs with paid research fellowships to work with university faculty to do studies in their fields.

Hazlett states, “We want to make sure that students feel like they are on UM Ann Arbor’s campus the moment they step onto Henry Ford campus.” Hazlett has also been helping to develop an American Studies Liberal Arts Degree that seamlessly transfers to UM Ann Arbor, allowing students to transfer as juniors. Hazlett also wants to try and give students opportunities to make the connections that might improve their experience at a university. And while the programs he overseas as the Honors Program director may focus on Honors students, he wants the opportunities to ripple out to the rest of the college. This would potentially bring HFC closer to feeling like a university. He wants to bring in “spaces where connections can organically happen.”

There are some obstacles for students when they’re transferring. According to Academic Advisor Sherry Clippert-Devogel, one of the biggest obstacles that students face are math requirements, mainly because these requirements are not the same depending on what university a student wishes to transfer to. But this is not the only thing students struggle with when thinking about transferring. Transfer agreement forms and applications are complicated and can be difficult for students to interpret. This often causes students to lose credits because they end up taking classes that don’t transfer to the university program the student is interested in.

Most of the faculty at HFC are willing to help students who want to transfer, but aren’t sure how. There are professors who will help to push you towards doing things that you might do at a university setting, like give lectures to a conference or getting your work published. And unbeknownst to a majority of students there are academic advisors from UM, Ann Arbor, who are willing to help students with their transcript, picking classes, sitting down to do one-on-one advising with students, and getting them ready for transfer. Students who come through HFC before going on to other levels of higher education are often more likely to succeed in those next levels and into the rest of their lives.

Students also need to realize that they can come to HFC and take the same class that they would be taking at a university at HFC at half the price they would be paying, and have it possibly be taught by the same teacher. And a lot of them do transfer, but again students need to confirm with an adviser that those classes are the right ones. There are colleges that will actually tell students that they should be taking classes at HFC before coming to their college.

Transferring isn’t always easy for students. Sometimes it is a smooth transition, other times it’s being bounced back and forth between colleges unable to get a clear answer. Students need to be able to navigate HFC’s course catalog, the transfer agreement requirements, as well as what the school they want to transfer to requires. There is help to be found from advisors, teachers, or friends.