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OJC Press Release ID: 3041

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Transferring Credits from OJC


Today’s college students and their families are more conscious than ever of their investment in higher education and want to minimize the impact of long-term borrowing and student loans. With this in mind, more and more students consider saving money on tuition and housing by completing their first two years at a community or junior college.

Almabeth Kaess, associate vice president for enrollment management at Otero Junior College (OJC) in La Junta, explains how Otero prepares students for careers and continued education — and answers a frequent and important question asked by students, “Will my credits transfer” to a four-year school?”

Big Benefits of Starting Small

Kaess says there are two major, overarching benefits of attending a two-year school: smaller classes and a smaller price tag.

For one thing, a two-year college can foster a sense of belonging and being “known” that isn’t always easy to achieve at larger institutions. At Otero, Kaess says, “You’re not one of hundreds in an auditorium. If you’re an athlete, the faculty are going to ask how your game went this week. If you missed class last week because of a sick child, they are going to ask how your family is doing.”

All students at Otero benefit from personalized attention and one-on-one connection with faculty members. Kaess adds that this type of learning environment also offers an easier transition to college life, especially for students from rural communities where graduating high school classes may be much smaller than their suburban or urban counterparts.

For example, it might be quite jarring to go from an English or history class with less than a dozen students to a freshman seminar in a huge lecture hall on a large college campus. Kaess says for students wanting to earn a bachelor’s degree in a larger city later on, “OJC helps them gradually move into that space.”

Kaess explains that in Colorado, as in most states, there are also significant cost savings in first earning associate degree credits at a two-year college like Otero where credits are essentially the same academically — but at a lower per-credit tuition rate. This can represent a considerable education cost savings for students and families.

There are a total of 13 individual schools in the Colorado Community College System; several years ago, representatives from each institution got together with their fellow state-funded four-year universities to coordinate core classes. Kaess says this means students taking English 121 at a state’s flagship school such as CU Boulder, are learning the same material as first-year students at two-year colleges around Colorado.

As long as students earn a grade of C or better in these courses, “when it comes to transferring, it’s a done deal.”

With this across-the-state alignment of introductory-level courses in mind — and also with the understanding that it’s typically in the junior and senior year when students take upper-level and major-specific courses — Kaess advocates for choosing the lower cost-per-credit option at a two-year college for the first two years.

Another source of savings, Kaess explains, is in room and board. For traditional-age students, attending a school within easy commuting distance means they can live at home. OJC does offer housing and dining options for out-of-town or international students, or local students who want a full campus experience — and it’s offered at a lower cost than Colorado’s public four-year universities.

How to Transfer to a Four-year College

Two-year colleges like OJC allow students to seamlessly take their associate degree credits to any of the public universities in Colorado. Students interested in earning bachelor’s degrees at private four-year schools in Colorado or any university outside the state will also be well-prepared.

In fact, OJC has developed partnerships with several institutions within and beyond the state borders; officially referred to as transfer or articulation agreements, these allow students automatic admission to specific programs when all other requirements are met.

According to Kaess, agriculture is one program of study that utilizes unique articulation agreements with several in-state and out-of-state colleges. “We’ve spent a lot of time aligning our curriculum so our students can seamlessly transfer to several universities, going in at full junior status because we’ve worked with them from their first semester at OJC to make sure their course of study aligned with the requirements of the university they are transferring to,” explained Kaess.

Today, OJC has full college credit transfer agreements for agriculture programs at universities and colleges in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Solid Academic Advising for the Two-year College Transfer Student

For many students, attending a two-year school it is a pathway to a bachelor’s program, but to achieve the highest level of success, they need to earn the right associate degree credits before transferring to a four-year college.

“We don’t want you to waste your time or money on a class that isn’t going to help you reach your future goals,” says Kaess, adding that OJC is wholly committed to educating students from day one on how to transfer college credits seamlessly.

This commitment begins by assigning to every student intending to pursue a bachelor’s degree a dedicated transfer advisor: a professional who is well-versed in program requirements across Colorado. It’s not uncommon for students to start college uncertain of their goals, and OJC also offers career coaching and “transfer trips” to help students explore options. When an OJC student identifies their intended bachelor’s program early, their transfer advisor can ensure they’re on the right track from the start.

For example, a future engineering student might come to OJC for its strong STEM programming and earn an associate of science degree, or someone with their eye on business school might choose an associate of arts business transfer degree. The goal in both cases, Kaess says, is for “students to leave us as full-fledged juniors,” ready to take 300-level courses in their chosen major at the next level.

“At a bigger school, you could fall through the cracks,” she says. For example, without strong or careful advising, a student may unintentionally choose classes that, although interesting or fun, aren’t following the requirements to meet their longer-term goals. For example, taking an extra elective, taking a class out of order, or changing a major could result in adding a semester or even a year to meet graduation requirements: and that translates into more tuition dollars.

Kaess says some studies have shown that two-year college transfer students who start as juniors at four-year schools are more prepared, academically, than their third-year counterparts who started at the four-year school. It makes sense: After two years, many students at two-year colleges have earned a degree and had a graduation ceremony. This sense of completion and feeling of accomplishment is unique to the two-year college experience; second-semester sophomores at a four-year school don’t usually have this milestone achievement midway in their academic journey.

If a student’s ultimate goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, earning an associate degree at a school like OJC means they won’t have to worry over “will my credits transfer?” Attending a two-year program allows students to prepare academically for their major of choice in a more intimate environment — and at a lower cost per credit hour. It’s a win-win situation for many students who have higher education goals.

Fall Semester at OJC begins on August 17. Making an application is free of charge and several scholarship opportunities are still available. Financial aid is available to those who qualify.

To learn more about Otero Junior College’s transfer associate degree options, or to make an application to the college visit

Press Release Photo
Almabeth Kaess, associate vice president for enrollment management at Otero Junior College (OJC) in La Junta, explains how Otero prepares students for careers and continued education — and answers a frequent and important question asked by students, “Will my credits transfer” to a four-year school?”