A few months ago, I was cleaning out a storage room at home and there it was: A round and shiny red plastic button with the word "easy" clearly visible in white letters. You guessed it, it was my old Staples® Easy Button™.
Running across it reminded me of the times my colleagues at Franklin University and I would jokingly press the button, wishing for some magical solution to whatever recruitment challenge we were faced with at the time. One of the biggest issues my team and I focused on together was transfer student enrollment, an area with tremendous opportunities and equally large challenges.
It seems like transfer enrollment hasn't gotten any easier. While presenting at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) Technology and Transfer Conference recently, I heard several enrollment managers share their progress on strategies like dedicated transfer student recruitment, transfer workflow improvement, and partnerships with two-year institutions. However, even within these enrollment managers’ success stories, transfer enrollment challenges still persisted, particularly scalable good faith estimates of transfer credit, along with articulation agreements and reverse transfer strategies.
How community college partnerships can improve transfer outcomes
That got me thinking again about the Easy Button. There may not be one for transfer enrollment, but the most important thing that made transfer-related initiatives easier was buy-in: From the campus community, stakeholders, and especially the president.
Here are four E-A-S-Y recommendations for boosting buy-in for transfer enrollment on campus, inspired by the Easy Button.
E: Ensure transfer enrollment goals are in place and shared
Most likely, your college or university has a specific and well-publicized goal for first-time student recruitment that the campus community follows closely. However, with transfer student enrollment, I find the opposite is true.
Never miss a transfer enrollment insight
To build understanding and support for transfer, one of the most important things you can to is to ensure specific and measurable transfer enrollment goals are in place. Start by leveraging existing enrollment planning and goal setting processes to clarify and gather agreement on transfer enrollment goals. When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve asked questions like the ones below, drawing on at least two academic years of past data:
- How did transfer student application, completed application, admit, and yield rates change this year?
- How many new and continuing transfer students did we enroll?
- What number of new students transferred from a two-year college? How many earned an associate’s degree?
- What are the demographics of your new and continuing transfer student population—number and percentage of men/women, race/ethnicity, age, and residential/commuter?
- What percentage of new and continuing transfer students are enrolled full/part-time?
- How does the transfer student discount rate and net revenue compare to first-time students?
- How do transfer student retention and graduation rates compare to first-time students?
Follow the transfer goal setting process with a comprehensive communications effort with the campus community, stakeholders, and of course, the president, to build and maintain awareness of these goals so that they are well understood. You can then build on this awareness by sharing transfer enrollment results as part of broader institutional results reporting.
A: Advance the perception of transfer students' contributions
As I work with enrollment managers on transfer-friendliness, one of their biggest surprises is the realization that transfer students are often performing at or above their first-time student counterparts academically.
More on transfer student enrollment
One way to help your community understand this is through data. Collaborate with your institutional research office to see how your transfer students are performing versus first-time students. I have found that focusing this analysis on a small handful of data points is useful in initial discussions with the campus community. In the past, I’ve looked at metrics like GPA, retention rate, graduation rate, and net revenue to make the case.
To advance the perception of transfer students’ value and contributions, routinely share the performance comparison of transfer and first-time students with the campus community through standard reporting, verbal updates, and regular written communication. With persistence, the campus community will grow to embrace the importance of transfer students and support for transfer enrollment goals and strategic initiatives..
S: Speak to the specific benefits of transfer initiatives
We don’t know the extent to which transfer enrollment initiatives are being passed over for alternative and sometimes less informed initiatives. However, we do know that without a common understanding of the specific transfer problem being solved, it is more difficult to get approval or funding.
To position the transfer initiative for support, it’s important to communicate specifically how the initiative will help achieve the desired outcome. For example, rather than only communicating that an initiative will strengthen transfer yield and boost enrollment, communicate how the initiative will benefit transfer students because it reduces the time that they wait for unofficial evaluations by pulling the registrar's course equivalency work forward.
Y: You must be the transfer champion
It's been said that it takes a campus to recruit a student, but the enrollment manager is the center of those efforts. I consider this to be especially true with transfer students.
There are hundreds of unique approaches to transfer recruitment. What often makes those colleges and universities achieving results with transfer enrollment different is the existence of a vocal and collaborative transfer champion on their campus.
As the transfer champion, you'll bring the campus community together around the importance and benefit of transfer students, guiding and strengthening stakeholder alignment with your transfer enrollment initiatives.
If you have an Easy Button, don’t press the button hoping for your magical solution. We all know it doesn’t really work. But if you put the Y in E-A-S-Y and become the transfer champion on your campus, you’ve given your transfer goals their best chance of success.