Skip navigation
EAB Logo Navigate to the EAB Homepage Navigate to EAB home

The transfer credit conundrum: why are transfer applicants not yielding?

December 14, 2023

Tara Arneson

Registrar, Champlain College

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

The admission of transfer students is on the rise, particularly because of the decline of the traditional-aged student and because fewer students are going to college. As institutions prepare to welcome more transfer students and reduce barriers to their admission, the question of why aren’t transfer applicants matriculating at Champlain College comes up regularly.

Nestled on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont, the traditional campus of Champlain College yields about 35% of all transfer applicants annually. My Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship capstone project focused on a sample set of transfer applicants from Fall 2022 and Fall 2023 in five specific programs to try to determine why they didn’t yield. The sample set included applicants in the following programs: Business Administration; Computer Science and Innovation; Computer Networking and Cybersecurity; Filmmaking; and Education.

Transfer applicants don’t matriculate for a number of reasons, but my hypothesis focused on lost transfer credits. On average, the sample set of transfer applicants had 64% of their transfer credits accepted. However, those same applicants, on average, lost 23 credits in the transfer articulation process. Of those 23 lost or unproductive credits, 7.5 of those credits were unusable because the grades were too low, and the other 15.5 of those credits were unusable because they did not fit into a Champlain College academic program. According to National Student Clearinghouse enrollment data, the majority of this sample set of applicants in 2022 transferred to a different institution, whereas the majority of the 2023 sample set of applicants stayed at the institution they were trying to transfer from.

The amount of credits lost by this sample set of applicants over two years shows that Champlain’s curriculum is too rigid. The five sample programs only have six to maybe 15 available general elective credits in each program, proving that majors, minors, or concentrations have too many required courses. The sample set shows that students aren’t losing a significant amount of transfer credits because of low grades. Applicants are primarily losing credits because the credits don’t fit into their program of choice at Champlain.

  • Interested in the Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship?

    Learn more about the program and future cohorts.


    Get Started

Conversations have already begun at Champlain on how to address this barrier for transfer applicants. We’ve already implemented a group to review program curriculum and make recommendations to the provost for adjustments. In addition to curriculum review, policies are being reviewed, we have started to dedicate staff to the transfer experience, and we’ve started to build a transfer credit database that will allow the registrar’s office to work more autonomously when reviewing transfer credit.

Transfer student enrollment and performance is a current hot topic in higher education given recent headlines in Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and a statement released by the Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona. Eventually, most college-bound students will have some transfer credit either because they are true transfer students or because they completed some college coursework while still in high school. As the number of traditional-aged students is shrinking, it is important to break down existing barriers for transfer students.

More Blogs


10 higher ed podcasts to stream in 2022

From big picture analysis of the evolving higher ed landscape to practical advice on avoiding burnout, we've got…
Strategy Blog

3 assumptions that derail higher ed strategic planning—and how to fix them

University presidents need bold strategy to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market.

4 ways to prepare for a shrinking enrollment pipeline

Between 2025 and 2029, the college-age population in the United States is expected to see a 15% decline.…
Strategy Blog