Berkeley Today Stories

Berkeley College Cheryl Martin

Community College Graduates Take the Next Step in Their Academic Journeys



Berkeley College Andrew Lemke


Not all of the graduates who will participate in the April 25 Commencement ceremony began their higher education journey at Berkeley College. Some, like Andrew Lemke of Lodi, are transfer students from community colleges.

After graduating with an Associate’s degree in Legal Professions and Studies from Bergen Community College in 2011, Mr. Lemke had his sights set on a Bachelor’s degree. He enrolled at Berkeley College as a Transfer Opportunity Program (T.O.P.) Scholar in 2012, and is excited to be graduating from Berkeley College with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing.

“Before transferring my credits to a four-year school, I did a lot of research,” Mr. Lemke said. “I chose Berkeley College because it has a strong Marketing program, all of my credits transferred and half of my tuition was paid through the T.O.P. Scholars program.”

There’s good reason for community college graduates to transfer to four year institutions. According to the Economic Mobility Project, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trust, a nonpartisan Washington-based research organization, Americans’ upward economic mobility is more strongly tied to educational attainment than ever before. The study shows that those born into the lowest socioeconomic groups are four times more likely to reach the top socioeconomic levels as adults if they have a four-year degree.

Mom Returns to Classroom after Losing Job

When Cheryl Martin, 51, lost her job due to outsourcing, her daughters – both college graduates – encouraged their mom to pursue a Bachelor’s degree as a first step in getting back into the job market. At first, Ms. Martin, who earned an Associate’s degree in Business Administration from Westchester Community College in 1982, thought it was a crazy idea.

“It had been more than 30 years since I was in school. The whole idea of returning to college was a little daunting for me,” said Ms. Martin, a resident of Yorktown Heights, NY. “I was sure I would have to start all over again and I felt too old to do that.”

But she did make a call to the Admissions Office at Berkeley College in White Plains, and quickly realized that a Bachelor’s degree was within reach. Ms. Martin enrolled in the Business Management program as a T.O.P. Scholar in 2012. All of her community college credits transferred and half of her tuition was paid through the scholarship program.

Transfer Scholars Program Offers Affordable Solution

The T.O.P. Scholars program at Berkeley College offers an affordable solution for community college graduates in New York and New Jersey. This scholarship program can cover up to 50 percent of college tuition based on a graduate’s previous academic performance.

“More than 900 students have participated in the Berkeley College T.O.P. Scholars program, affording them the opportunity to continue their educational aspirations,” said Diane Recinos, Berkeley College Senior Vice President, Enrollment Management.

Berkeley College has articulation agreements with 15 community colleges, which makes for a seamless transfer process. In addition, T.O.P. Scholars benefit from courses taught by professors with years of professional experience in their areas of study. These students also participate in faculty-monitored internships that provide valuable hands-on job experience, have access to a large network of employer contacts and receive a lifetime of career assistance following graduation.*

Four-Year Degree Provides More Marketable Future

Mr. Lemke served his marketing internship – a requirement for graduation from Berkeley College – at Maxey Hayes Hospitality Design Studios in Montclair, NJ. When his role as an intern recently ended, he was hired as a part-time marketing assistant.

Ms. Martin is currently enrolled as a full-time student, taking classes both online and on site while holding down a full-time job at an insurance agency. She is on track to graduate in Winter 2014.

“I missed my opportunity to finish my degree when I was in my 20s – now I get to earn an undergraduate degree, make myself more marketable and get a better job,” said Ms. Martin, whose high grade point average has earned her a spot on the President’s List every quarter. “Going back to school has been a fantastic experience. I am loving every minute of it.”

 *while the College is in operation

 Cheryl Martin

Cheryl Martin enrolled at Berkeley College as a T.O.P. Scholar in 2012. She is on track to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management in Winter 2014.

Top Tips for students transferring to a four-year college

1. Reflect – Take some time to think about what’s most important to you.

2. Be Real – What type of environment will truly help you succeed?

3. Research – Learn about all the resources that a school has to offer.

4. Explore – See what opportunities are available to transfer students and confirm deadlines.

5. Confirm – Check total number of transfer credits

6. Set Goals – Stay on track and don’t lose momentum!

Source: Michelle Lange, Berkeley College Transfer Student Coordinator