Unlocking college opportunity: How Phi Theta Kappa supports community college transfer students

In this blog series, we will be highlighting the incredible work of some of our Scholar Snapp partners who are driving innovation in higher education to support low-income students to college graduation. You can find the full series here.

This first blog focuses on Phi Theta Kappa, the official honor society for community colleges. In addition to recognizing exceptional students working towards an associate degree, the organization provides member-only scholarship opportunities along with transfer and college completion support.

We recently spoke with Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, President and CEO, about Phi Theta Kappa’s approach to supporting students to college success.  

How does Phi Theta Kappa support students to and through college?

We often hear from our students that access to scholarships is one of the most meaningful benefits of their Phi Theta Kappa membership, with over $90 million available for eligible members. Phi Theta Kappa is well-respected by four-year colleges, a benefit for our students who are looking to transfer and ultimately secure a bachelor’s degree. We’re also proud to offer soft skills training, professional growth opportunities, and a sense of community to these high-achieving students. There are a number of external benefits to help them get to the next level.

We’ve also created a new tool for community college students who are transferring to receive a bachelor’s degree. PTK Connect is a free online search tool offering information on transfer scholarships, colleges, and career pathways, all in one place.

How does Scholar Snapp fit into your student support?

With Scholar Snapp, our students have the opportunity to apply for more scholarships – which is exactly what we want them to do! By and large, Phi Theta Kappa is often a students’ first opportunity to apply for a scholarship. By starting here and creating a Scholar Snapp profile, it makes the process easier for them down the road.

In early 2019, our membership process will be fully integrated with Scholar Snapp to help more students take advantage of this benefit. When a student joins Phi Theta Kappa, they will automatically be applying for our scholarship program – no extra steps required!

How did you get started in this work and what drives your passion for it today?

I don’t know if I was born first or started working in community college first! Over the years, I’ve worked as a faculty member for an institution, as a mathematics, chemistry, and physics instructor, and then went into institutional research and the computer field. Throughout these roles, what I’ve noticed over the years is that community colleges are often recognized as accessible and affordable, but we rarely get celebrated for our quality.

What is your vision for Phi Theta Kappa in the coming years?

At Phi Theta Kappa, we look at the student journey and see these transition points. A student arrives at college, they graduate with an associate degree, or they’re looking to transfer or start their career. Each of these transition points represents a gap where we can better support students. How do you transition to work or transition to a college? How do you identify the best scholarships? How do you apply for multiple institutions and compare financial aid packages? As students navigate these questions, we’re looking to scale our benefits to offer them on-demand resources that will break down the process for them.

If you look at the data, the students coming out of two-year colleges that transfer to a four-year program are doing just as well as the students who began there as freshmen. At Phi Theta Kappa, we have an opportunity to celebrate that – and help open minds to the fact that community college, done correctly, can be a money saver, a time saver, and can get that student exactly where they want to be in life. Community college makes higher education a viable opportunity for everyone, and it’s more affordable and accessible.

Dr. Tincher-Ladner is the President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa. She also serves as an ex-officio member of the Phi Theta Kappa Board of Directors and Secretary to the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation Board of Trustees. Dr. Tincher-Ladner has served more than 23 years in higher education in the areas of instruction, information technology and research. She holds a Ph.D. in Education Leadership from Mississippi State University and both a master’s and bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Southern Mississippi.