Colleges, universities addressing key hurdles to transfer student success

Transfer students “are feeling a surge in popularity” as a growing number of colleges and universities focus on attracting and supporting individuals who initiate their postsecondary education elsewhere, the New York Times reports.

Thirty-eight percent of all students in higher education transfer during their college career; yet, it’s “a group that was always taken for granted,” said Todd Rinehart, the University of Denver’s vice chancellor for enrollment. Until last year, for instance, federal graduation rates for colleges and universities—a data point featured in college rankings—did not even include transfer students. Now, however, “transfer students are receiving the most positive attention from higher education that they ever have,” Janet Marling, executive director of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students, told the Times.

Enrollment, revenue, and diversity goals driving focus on transfers

The Times outlines several reasons institutions are mobilizing to woo transfer students, including declining undergraduate enrollment, a trend that has persisted for six years and is expected to continue.

Transfer students also help replace revenue lost when other students drop out after their first or second year, and they can boost colleges’ yield rate: survey results from the National Association for College Admission Counseling indicate that almost two-thirds of transfer applicants admitted to a university ultimately enrolled (compared with 28 percent of freshmen). In addition, transfer students “can offer the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity schools are seeking,” according to the Times.

Schools taking steps to improve students’ pathways, financial aid, and campus life

Colleges and universities are also working to remove common obstacles for admitted transfer students, such as a lack of available scholarships and uncertainty around how previously earned credits will count toward graduation requirements at students’ new schools.

The University of Central Florida (UCF), the nation’s second-largest university, in 2005 created a DirectConnect to UCF program to address this challenge. Through DirectConnect, the university partners with six community colleges to align credits and academic pathways needed for specific degrees. UCF—whose incoming class has more transfer students than first-year freshmen—pairs this coordination with a team of “success coaches” and academic advisors who guide DirectConnect students, 71 percent of whom graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrolling in college.

Others, like Long Island, New York-based Adelphi University, are using software to give students early, comprehensive visibility into how their credits will transfer. Adelphi, where transfer students account for nearly 40 percent of the incoming class, also has created a dedicated director of undergraduate admissions for transfer students. Schools are looking at residential life and extracurricular activities, too. The University of Denver last year created a dormitory especially for transfer students and created a “transfer student representative” position within its student government.

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