Wichita State’s technology-enabled transfer strategy

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Wichita State’s technology-enabled transfer strategy

For many years, Wichita State University (WSU) has been a top destination for transfer students in Kansas. Forty-eight percent of WSU’s most recent entering class was comprised of transfer students and 88% of all degree-earners had some transfer credit.

But despite longstanding success with transfer students, WSU is facing many of the same challenges as other institutions, including statewide declines in 2-year enrollment and increased competition for transfers from both public and private colleges and universities. WSU is also facing increasing demand from students for answers on credit, cost, and time-to-degree.

In response, WSU’s leadership team began exploring ways to incorporate prospect-facing technology into their recruitment process, with two main goals:

  • Secure their local market by strengthening 2-year partnerships and reaching students earlier
  • Expand their recruitment market with a special focus on neighboring states

In continued collaboration with EAB, WSU became an alpha member for the Transfer Portal and went live for prospective transfer students this past February. In addition to providing students with real-time self-service credit estimates, the ability to explore majors and associated careers, and a checklist for all of the key steps and deadlines for enrollment, it also provides admissions staff with early visibility into transfer inquiry and stealth applicant (those who were previously unknown to the school) activity. This enables better enrollment forecasting and earlier, more targeted outreach.

A well-supported technology launch led to success

Ensuring a successful adoption was important to WSU leadership. So they launched a multi-pronged marketing effort by issuing a press release, placing Transfer Portal links prominently on their website, developing portal-specific marketing materials, and creating videos to explain the new portal.

For the WSU enrollment leaders, engaging local 2-year colleges in the portal was also a key ingredient to the portal’s success. WSU’s leadership team worked with their biggest feeder colleges to make sure administrators, advisors, and students were aware of the portal.

Related: 5 strategies to accelerate transfer student growth

Promising early results at WSU

We found that it really changed the way we interact with students, making it easier for students to understand how their credit is supposed to transfer.

– Bobby Gandu, director of admissions at WSU

WSU is pleased with the results from their portal launch this February. While still early, WSU’s portal is already seeing 400 distinct users per month. WSU has also seen a 33% increase in transfer student yield among users and a 2.5x lift in the transfer student application compared to the total applicant pool. Moreover, approximately 35% of applicants are from out of state and 49% are not from core feeder schools.

Gandu was even more struck by the qualitative feedback from students. One student said: “I was able to add all my institutions and courses in a few minutes and get an immediate credit estimate. When I transferred, it took weeks to get that information.”

Another student wrote in to say: “I spend three to four days, hours a day on another school’s website trying to find this information, and I didn’t get it all. Here it is in five minutes, customized to me.”

Gandu pointed out that many of the transfer students interacting with the portal were what enrollment practitioners call “stealth shoppers,” students who investigate transfer options without actually submitting an application. By creating an account on the transfer portal, these students provide necessary information for WSU to target them with marketing messages.

The portal is improving operational efficiency as well. Wichita State registrar Gina Crabtree said: “With the portal, we receive equivalency requests much earlier, enabling us to get students information earlier, fill equivalency gaps, and spread requests for faculty review throughout the recruitment cycle.”

Technology supports students through the transfer process

Our research has found most colleges have a significant opportunity to build sustainable transfer pipelines and reach enrollment goals by expanding their transfer recruitment. And for colleges to succeed in transfer recruitment, they must remove barriers to transfer student enrollment, many of which can be addressed through a transfer student portal. Our transfer portal technology can better support students by providing students with good faith estimates on how their credits will transfer, how long it will take for them to graduate, and how much it will cost them.

These early findings from Wichita State suggest that supporting prospective transfer students and giving them important transfer information early could boost enrollment and increase yield.