Transfers, The New Freshmen - Monday Musings

By Don Gray on Sep 26, 2011

Is your institution recruiting transfers? Are they a priority? You might want to make them one! Read on to learn why.

Tags: recruitment strategies

As is likely the case in your hometown, here in Rochester, NY families have been experiencing the economic challenges brought about by the now long lasting deep recession. This has led more families to consider having their children attend two years of college community college before transferring to a four year institution. A great local example of this trend is Finger Lakes Community College which has seen its enrollment increase 45 percent since 2006.

Recruit transfersI believe we need to view this shift of graduating high school seniors away from four year colleges toward community colleges as the new normal. These future transfers are becoming the new freshmen. They represent an excellent recruitment opportunity for four year institutions struggling to meet their class size, enrollment and retention goals. There are 6 reasons I believe transfers can be more appealing than freshmen:

  1. Higher Yield and Lower Discount Rate – Our enrollment research has shown, in most cases, transfers to be less price elastic than freshmen. One reason for this result is prior college experience has led transfers to narrow down their choice of new colleges based on factors such as campus culture, geographic location, and desired academic major. Subsequently, transfers apply to fewer colleges than freshmen and are more committed to each of the colleges to which they have applied. These factors lead to transfers’ willingness to enroll at lower levels of grant assistance, compared to freshmen.
  2. Demonstrated Academic Ability – In our retention research we’ve found, with almost no exception, Term 1 GPA is the most influential predictor of student retention. Transfers are appealing in this regard, since they have already demonstrated the ability to succeed in completing college level coursework.
  3. Higher Retention Rates – Given transfers’ prior academic success and their conclusions about which college and major are a good fit for them, it’s no surprise they often persist at higher rates than freshmen. Put succinctly, transfers have already passed many of the hurdles that trip up freshmen.
  4. Relieves Residential Demand – If your campus is at capacity in the residence halls, transfers often add to the total enrollment but not to the residential enrollment.
  5. Balancing the Class Cohorts – Often because of attrition upper class cohorts are smaller in size than the underclass cohorts. Transfers into the upper division courses move the institution to somewhat more balanced class and “fill in” at major classes where there is capacity.
  6. Diversity – Today many community colleges have large populations of high ability first generation underrepresented students. Transfers from these institutions help to shape the class at four year schools.

So, how does your institution view transfers? Are they a high priority demographic? If not, you may want to consider making them one.

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Don GrayAbout the author: Don Gray served as a Research Analyst and IT Manager for Scannell & Kurz from 2005 through April of 2013. His responsibilities included analyzing and reporting on client data, building predictive models, and maintaining the FAST and SKORE software environments.

Don has a B.A. in Mathematics from Cedarville University and is working on a Masters degree in Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Connect with Don on LinkedIn.

Comments (3)

  1. Bruce

    Sep 29, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    Along the same lines as Balancing the Cohorts, transfers allow you to support your enrollment without adding class sections. Twenty five additional freshman might require new sections of Composition or Western Civ, but with gen ed courses done, junior transfers distribute themselves across a variety of upper level classes - which are more likely to have excess capacity to take on additional students.

  2. David Boisvert

    David Boisvert
    Sep 29, 2011 at 02:39 PM

    I would agree with my colleagues regarding the new generation of students seeking to begin at a two year institution and complete their educational degrees at a four year institution. The economic climate has impacted the choice for many students which may change or not in the near and distant future. In some cases, public colleges and universities which are not funded appropriately may have dificulty in providing the number of seats for prospective students? In that case, the publics may be viewed as more private and selective because they may be forced to increase their admissions standards in order to maximize their limited seat capacity. This may be a good opportunity for the privates to carefully analyze their own financial aid awarding protocol. We must be careful not to assume or expect that two year graduates will move directly into a traditional four year institution. All of us that work at four year private schools must be diligent in gathering the information needed to create the necessary articulation pathways for two-year students. The only question I cannot escape: do I enroll in a high price private institution or do I enroll in an institution that is closer in cost than what I am accustomed to paying? Again, we should be gathering data in the next few years to see the trend of CC graduates and whether they are moving towards private versus public institutions and make the adjustments needed.

  3. Don Gray

    Don Gray
    Sep 30, 2011 at 08:09 AM

    Thanks Bruce and David for your excellent thoughts on the positive contributions transfer students can make to four year institutions.

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