red cedar pathways

A better-defined pathway for students from LCC to MSU would help more people successfully and affordably earn their bachelor’s degree.

The mid-1950s were a busy time for higher education institutions in the Lansing area. In 1955, Michigan State College was renamed Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science (it would be shortened about a decade later with the ratification of the Michigan Constitution of 1964). Two years later, in 1957, Lansing Community College (LCC) was founded on land on the north side of the state capital.

Over the next half century, the size of MSU’s and LCC’s student bodies continued to grow.  By 2010, combined they had an annual enrollment of nearly 70,000 students. LCC was and remains a two-year institution, offering more than 200 different associate degree and certificate programs in addition to career and workforce development opportunities.  Like MSU, LCC operates with an intense focus on student success and the overall student experience.

In addition to providing affordable access to lower-division courses to MSU students, each year between 300 and 400 students transfer from LCC to MSU. Lansing Community College is the largest source of transfer students into MSU, but still only accounts for a relatively small fraction of the total number of transfer students. Last fall several of my colleagues and I began having regular meetings with our counterparts at LCC, and LCC’s President Brent Knight told me that most of the students who start at LCC want to ultimately graduate from MSU, but the “leap across Michigan Avenue” is fraught with challenges. Our collective goal is to reduce these challenges.

On and off over the last 62 years, MSU and LCC have partnered to provide students greater opportunities.  Many of MSU’s colleges and departments have articulation agreements that offer students pathways from LCC into MSU. But, especially compared to other state flagship universities and their nearby community colleges, the two schools have not entered into a substantial, institution-wide partnership that would create a well-defined route for LCC students into MSU.

Doubtlessly, a better-defined pathway for students from LCC to MSU would help more people successfully and affordably earn their bachelor’s degree. Recently, there has been an increasing push to celebrate the community college-to-university route for students, and Governor Whitmer has announced plans to make community college even more affordable.

The meetings of representatives from MSU and LCC have made rapid progress in creating a more cooperative institutional arrangement and in better supporting students who want to start at LCC and finish at MSU. Starting this month, MSU will place academic advisors in LCC’s advising space, and I am advocating for at least two more advisors to join them. They will have access to LCC students’ records, which combined with their knowledge of MSU, will ensure that community college students have both a comprehensive source of information and an advocate to support them before, during, and after they transfer from LCC to MSU.

We have also begun an effort we are calling Envision Green, which will offer LCC students the promise of an individualized roadmap into MSU.  LCC students will meet with MSU and LCC advisors to create a contract that will identify the specific LCC courses and a minimum GPA a student needs to successfully transfer to MSU.  If an LCC student is admitted into the Envision Green program and fulfills the requirements of the contract, they will be guaranteed admission into MSU.  Majors at MSU with secondary admissions requirements - including those in Engineering, Business, Nursing, and Education - will not be included in the first iteration of the Envision Green program, but we are considering ways in which those majors might be accessible in the future.

Ultimately, we want to create an environment in the Lansing area in which qualified students can make a seamless transition from LCC to MSU. Doing so will serve MSU’s land grant mission and LCC’s commitment to serving the community’s learning needs by reducing students’ costs of degree, increasing accessibility to higher education, and offering more people more opportunities to develop their purposes and passions.

Feedback and suggestions, especially from the MSU community, welcome: email

Mark Largent is the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Michigan State University.