The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.
Higher education across the nation is facing detrimental declines in student enrollment, challenging our institutions' leaders to be more innovative, more strategic, more empathetic to the needs of students, and more flexible as the “traditional” state of in-person and residential campuses shift to meet today’s students.
A large portion of today’s average student body comprises transfer students, and these transfer students come with unique needs and expectations—ones that demand our institutions to be better equipped to support enrollment and completion of goals of these students. At Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver), 54% of our student body is comprised of transfer students, and our current graduation rates hover around 37% (4-year rate) and 43% (6-year rate).
Also important to note is the fact that transfer students are not following the expected trajectory of moving from a community college to a four-year institution. Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) has identified the need to elevate their role in supporting transfer students coming to the community college, as they have recently recognized that they are receiving a larger number of incoming transfer students than they are transferring out.
In 2021, MSU Denver recognized we must do better. Outlined in the 2030 strategic plan, MSU Denver set forth a goal focused on transfer students, stating that MSU Denver will, “Provide an ideal transfer experience for students.” CNM, on the other hand, is tasked with creating a student experience for the transfer population, while also maintaining CNM's role as a "sending institution" that sends students on to four-year institutions.
Through the refinement of newly defined transfer definitions and associated student characteristics, we anticipate that we will identify barriers, gaps in services, and build a new transfer experience at MSU Denver and CNM that are solution-focused and result in student success.
Data reveals transfer student insights
Our first step was to develop a student profile to better understand the make-up of our transfer students. Utilizing this dashboard, we are able to dive into micro and macro-level data to learn not only about student demographics and program interests, but what correlations we see related to student success. This needs-analysis will allow us to identify roadblocks and gaps in services that prevent transfer student success. As a result, we can infuse strategy and data to implement transfer-friendly policies and procedures.
This dashboard is just one small step in the right direction towards shaping the culture of our institutions to be more transfer-friendly. We also identified the following steps as priorities as we tackle transfer student issues.
- Identify and involve key internal and external stakeholders; creating partnerships between Academic and Student Affairs
- Conduct an equity audit: assess policies that hinder and support transfer student matriculation, retention, and time to completion
- Create and market clear transfer pathways and incorporate transfer focused strategies in the areas of academic advising and financial resources
- Incorporate technologies to automate the transfer credit-evaluation process
- Assess and improve the transfer culture through campus-wide efforts on marketing, outreach, and support services catered to transfer students
MSU Denver and CNM are primed and active in moving forward as we make strides to better support transfer student enrollment and completion goals. EAB has been a supportive partner in helping us gather research and support our efforts in improving the transfer experience for students at our institutions.
See the fellows' blogs from the capstone projects
Megan Scherzberg, Roberto Vasquez, and others participated in EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship in fall 2021