To solve transfer enrollment challenges, align policy and technology

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To solve transfer enrollment challenges, align policy and technology

I heard a familiar chorus of concern at the recent National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS) conference: “I am not going back to my campus without a solution to our transfer problems.”

I understood this refrain. Our research at EAB has found just 25% of public and 33% of private four-year institutions reached their transfer targets in 2015-2016.

A large majority of enrollment leaders are confronting tough transfer numbers—but they don’t have to.

The new transfer admissions guidelines from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) suggest strategies to improve transfer-friendliness that can be facilitated by emerging enrollment technologies. By aligning policy and technology, all enrollment teams can be better positioned to achieve—and exceed—their transfer goals, like addressing the time-sensitive challenges of recruiting a growing number of “stealth” applications, those received at the last possible minute of the enrollment cycle.

NACAC’s solution to stealth applications

Our research repeatedly shows transfer students overlook good-fit, four-year institutions—or abandon their transfer aspirations altogether—when they are unable to find answers to key cost- and time-to-degree questions. And time is limited for schools to provide those answers, as 52% of transfer applicants are stealth, shopping and submitting in the 11th hour of the enrollment cycle.

Unfortunately, most schools are unable to enroll this crucial, last wave of transfer applicants because they’re slow to evaluate students’ transferable credit hours or discuss financial concerns and aid opportunities. We have found that many students end up having to wait up to three weeks for this kind of engagement: This is simply too long.

As a result of such delays, many four-year institutions have managed to grow their applicant pools only to experience declines in their admit and yield rates.

NACAC’s newly-adopted Statement of Principles of Good Practice on transfer admission promotes solutions critical for schools looking to mitigate the impact of stealth timelines to boost transfer enrollment. The statement recommends transfer programs at four-year schools:

  1. Publish up-to-date lists of the two-year institutions with which they have articulation agreements and include transfer credit and grade-requirement information for each
  2. Clearly state all admission requirements, limitations and restrictions on majors, and deadlines
  3. Be flexible with those deadlines to allow students time to assess all of their transfer options
  4. Provide students with a credit evaluation, a good faith estimate of how credits can be applied to graduation requirements, and financial aid packaging—all prior to deadlines to submit deposits or otherwise express intent to enroll

I find these guidelines encouraging because they indicate institutions better understand transfer timeframes and are eagerly working to acquire the tools that can improve transfer programs’ responses.

How technology responds to transfer problems

A lot of schools are also increasing transfer enrollment by embracing the new tech tools designed to provide critical information earlier and meet the time-sensitive needs of both students and advisors throughout the transfer enrollment process.

Our new Transfer Portal, for example, simplifies the transfer experience by providing students a seamless user experience with real-time credit estimation. The portal, shown below, reflects institutional course equivalency data in student information and degree audit systems, ultimately working to strengthen the transfer pipeline and boost enrollment.

EAB Transfer Student Portal Screenshot

Enrollment technology can also enable transfer students to explore majors and careers and provide step-by-step to-do lists to ensure easy navigation of the admissions process that most transfers consider too complex to complete.

Technology can also empower admissions staff to make the most of recruitment resources by quickly providing transfer prospects with important information before they even know they need it—fulfilling NACAC’s suggestion that institutions must be transparent and timely about aid offers, credit-assessments, deadlines, and other admission requirement.

Ultimately, increased transfer-friendliness is the goal we all want to achieve. I am heartened that technology is supporting policy to help even stealth transfer applicants fulfill their four-year degree ambitions.

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