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.
I 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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About the author: Research Analyst and IT Manager Don Gray joined the S&K team in June 2005. His special expertise is in the areas of computer programming, statistics, and database management. His responsibilities include analyzing and reporting on client data, building predictive models, and maintaining the FAST and SKORE software environments.
Don is a SAS certified professional and an active member of the Genesee Valley SAS User's Group. Don has a B.A. degree in Mathematics from Cedarville University and is currently working on his M.B.A degree at SUNY Empire State College.