Four ways to better meet transfer student needs

Four-year institutions have “a moral and political obligation to do more to recruit and welcome transfer students, and take active steps to ensure that these students succeed,” Steven Mintz, senior adviser to the president of Hunter College for student success and strategic initiatives, wrote recently in a column for Inside Higher Ed

Citing National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data indicating that a mere 13 percent of community college students who hope to earn a bachelor’s degree end up obtaining one at all, Mintz outlines four ways that four-year colleges can better support transfer student success.

Understanding, guiding, and welcoming transfer students

Mintz first encourages colleges to increase campus awareness and understanding of transfer students. “Faculty, especially at broad-access institutions, need to recognize the importance of transfer students—and avoid giving in to damaging stereotypes and stigma,” he writes. He suggests designating transfer student champions who can collaborate with feeder institutions, help faculty and staff understand structural barriers to transfer student success, and pursue improvements.

Related: New report urges reforms to ease transfers to four-year programs >

He also calls for a more seamless transfer process between two-year colleges and four-year institutions. Universities, he says, can make it simpler for transfer students by providing degree maps and sharing more specific information about majors to avoid credit loss when transferring.

The onboarding and transition period presents another key opportunity for improvement. Four-year institutions, Mintz suggests, need to give junior college counselors and transfer students clear information on financial aid and campus support services. Encouraging participation in special transfer student orientation sessions and bridge programs also would help acclimate students to the campus, so they feel welcome and not alienated.

Related: In transfer students, 4-year schools see untapped talent pool >

Noting that “specific groups of transfer students have special needs that need to be recognized and addressed,” Mintz further calls for targeted programs that foster a sense of belonging among adult learners, student parents, veterans, and students with disabilities.

Mintz points out several systemic barriers that could hamper institutions’ progress toward those goals, including a lack of urgency, the fact that two- and four-year institutions operate in silos, and the “diffusion of responsibility” for transfer issues.

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