Universities need to prepare for a tidal wave of transfer students, warns Marc Cutright, a higher education professor at the University of North Texas and an associate of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students. That means fixing a “leaky pipeline,” he writes in Inside Higher Ed.
Hoping to save money, more bachelor’s-seeking students are starting at community colleges. The new transfers will be savvier about the system, Cutright predicts. They’ll demand fair, consistent evaluation and acceptance of their credits and “convenient access to correct, timely information about following the best paths to transfer success.” That’s the exception now.
. . . all too often, credits are tossed out by receiving institutions or their disciplinary faculties without real examination of course content or the putting aside of untested assumptions about community college quality. A student may have vastly different results in credit acceptance, depending on whether Bob or Lisa is on the credit-evaluation desk that day. Websites, print materials, and the advice of counselors can be woefully disconnected from actual practice and even compliance with state regulation.
More of our new transfer students will simply have more social capital — more “insider” knowledge and stronger support systems. When those factors meet institutional caprice, more challenges to rulings can be expected, more push exerted from students who, for example, have parents who attended college and know which buttons to press.
In addition, state legislatures are trying to simplify and streamline credit transfers in order to save money. Legislators also are exploring funding formulas that reward universities for graduating transfer students.
In the past, most community college transfers have moved to a nearby university. But increasingly students can go online to evaluate whether the local university helps transfers complete a degree. If not, students have many online learning options. Nobody’s limited by geography any more.
. . . a community college graduate in Sugar Land, Texas, can complete a bachelor’s degree through offerings from 400-miles-away Wichita Falls at in-state tuition, with financial aid eligibility, and without leaving home, is there any doubt that such programs can get more students with quality programs and even modest marketing? Institutions that depend implicitly on a “take it or leave it” approach to transfer students may find more students saying, “I’ll leave it.”
Universities also need to prepare for returning veterans with “educational ambitions, government assistance, and bigger knots of transfer credits than ever before.”