As Transfer Student Numbers Increase, So Must Your Speed in Enrolling Them

The evidence continues to mount. Transfer students – and their transfer transcripts – are going to keep arriving in droves at most institutions. As a recent study shows, one-third of all students transfer at least once, and a quarter of that group transfers more than once. Helping to drive up transfer volumes are the increasing numbers of upper middle class students who are choosing to start at community colleges. Another study reveals that enrollment in community colleges by students from families with annual incomes of $100,000 or more has risen from 16 percent to 22 percent in the past four years.

These trends echo what I’ve been commenting on over the past several months – most recently when I outlined the connections among transfer credit processing, enrollment goals and performance-based funding. As I suggested then and explained in detail in an earlier post on speed and responsiveness in transfer credit evaluation, transfer students are increasingly approaching their next-stage enrollment options the way they approach their options as consumers: they’re shopping.

As shoppers, they’re looking for the best deal – in this case, the school that will accept the largest amount of previously earned course credit. But, they’re also highly influenced by how quickly the offer arrives. While two schools might ultimately present equally generous credit acceptance packages, many transfer students will take the first offer to arrive, even if that school was not their first choice. Basic psychology applies here: It’s the reassuring presence of the “known” versus the anxiety-inducing wait for the “who knows?”

Similarly to the way drivers waiting in line at a toll booth grow frustrated as the cars in the lanes alongside them seem to be moving faster, quickly returning to “full speed” while they continue to wait, students eager for acceptance offers become increasingly impatient. And, like those drivers who start thinking about whether or not switching lanes would get them through the toll stop faster, transfer students are increasingly willing to pursue what they perceive to be the clearest path.

So, my advice is to keep the transfer acceptance lanes open and the traffic moving. In your Admissions or Registrar’s office, leverage automation to:

  • Speed the transcript data grab by automatically pulling school, term, course and grade dataInstantly feed your student information system or degree audit system with transcript data and credit evaluation decisions
  • Streamline course equivalency database lookups
  • Simplify routing and approval of course exceptions (e.g., unfamiliar schools, new courses)

With overall transfer numbers on the rise and demographic shifts in the community college crowd, the old ways – manual data entry and paper-based review for equivalency matching – won’t be good enough to keep up. And if slowdowns continue to occur, you may pay a very heavy toll, indeed: the loss of significant numbers of prospective students.

Tom von Gunden

Tom von Gunden directs Hyland’s market research, strategy and advisory initiatives in higher education. Tom holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and spent more than a dozen years in higher education, serving as a tenured university professor, program director and accreditation specialist. His deep understanding of best practices in deploying ECM (enterprise content management) capabilities comes not only from his direct involvement in system implementations in colleges and universities, but also from his prior work as chief editor of Web and print publications focused on ECM and data storage technologies.

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