Why more colleges are pursuing transfer students

Nine in 10 admissions officers consider transfer students important to their enrollment goals

As colleges and universities work to diversify their campuses, many elite institutions are turning towards transfer students, Elissa Nadworny writes for NPR.

Nadworny writes that just 3% of students enrolled at elite institutions are low-income students. And in a recent push to enroll diverse student populations, these institutions are beginning to pursue military veterans, applicants from low-income families, and community college students.

For instance, this fall, Princeton University admitted 13 transfer students—the first transfer admissions in nearly three decades, writes Nadworny. Nine of the 13 students enrolled. "They're bringing perspectives out of their experience that would otherwise be lacking here," says Keith Shaw, the director of Princeton's transfer, veteran, and non-traditional student programs.

"It's not like you admit nine students, and it's suddenly wildly changed the campus culture," Shaw adds. But enrolling those students "goes a long way towards changing the campus culture and making it a little bit more reflective of the broader American public that it's drawing on."

Several other private colleges are working to recruit transfer students, particularly those currently enrolled in community colleges, writes Nadworny. The University of Southern California, for example, admits roughly 1,500 transfer students each year—more than any other elite school. And Amherst College in Massachusetts hosts job fairs and open houses for interested community college students.

Most schools aim too low on transfer enrollment—is yours one of them?

Even more, colleges are hiring admissions officers dedicated exclusively to transfer students. And admissions offices are incorporating transfer student enrollment into their overall goals. For instance, nine in 10 admissions offices consider transfer students significantly or moderately important to overall enrollment goals, according to a 2018 report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). And 64% indicated that they're making greater efforts to recruit transfer students in an Inside Higher Ed survey of admissions directors. 

"Diverse students are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S.," says Heather Durosko, the assistant director of strategic initiatives at NACAC. "It's really important for our colleges recognizing that trend to realize that more and more of their students are going to be coming from that pathway."

That includes Maria Aybar, a junior at Amherst who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic when she was a teenager. After three and a half years at community college, she was able to transfer to the private liberal arts college. "I never thought I would go to an elite school, as they call them," she says.

"Here, students they talk a certain way," she explains. "They have these huge words they constantly use in class and they're able to make these amazing connections. You think: 'I can't do that.' But it's actually not that you can't do it, it's that you have not been prepared for that."

Aybar adds that on-campus resources helped her with her self-doubts and financial worries. Shaw notes that when enrolling transfer students, colleges must also consider how they will support students like Aybar who don’t fit the "traditional" student mold.  

Reflecting on her experience, Aybar explains, "When you have big dreams and you don't have the resources for it, you feel trapped and you feel that nothing is ever going to change, so being able to be here and to fulfill my dream of education means the world to me" (Nadworny, NPR, 12/4).


Next in Today's Briefing

How Montana colleges use workforce data to shape the curriculum

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague