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College Transfer: Student Mobility Matters

Posted on 11/22/2013 by AcademyOne Insights

College students are more mobile now than ever before – and we’re not talking about their cell phone usage. No, today’s students are moving between and among our postsecondary institutions, with one third transferring at least once before earning a degree.

There are plenty of motivating factors behind a student’s decision to transfer, but the rising cost of tuition appears to be one of the most common.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult to financially support a college education.  In fact, there has been a dramatic shift in recent years of students leaving four-year universities for a more affordable alternative: the community college.  While this certainly isn’t a poor choice for some students, many inevitably end up following churning, convoluted pathways in the attempt to offset the cost of college.  Unfortunately, though, they usually pay more for it in the long run. 

Every time students transfer to a new institution, they risk losing credit for their previous coursework.  And losing credit means also losing the time and money they spent to complete those courses.  It’s discouraging, to say the very least.  Students expect their prior learning to count for something.

But our higher education systems simply weren’t designed to support the college transfer process – at least not in a way that meets the expectations of today’s modern (and mobile) learners.  After all, it wasn’t too long ago that “traditional” students – those who enroll full-time and take four years to graduate from the same institution – were the norm on campus.  But those days are over, and more colleges and universities are now changing their longstanding policies and practices to better support the diverse and ever-growing “nontraditional” crowd, which includes college transfer students.

In a broad sense, there are two strategies to improving student mobility and the transferability of academic credits:

1.       A reactive strategy provides comprehensive transfer information only after a student enrolls. 

2.       A proactive strategy aims to prepare students for transfer prior to enrollment.

The lack of systematic processes, resources and technologies is why many institutions continue to operate reactively.  Transfer requests are handled individually, using manual articulation methods to process student transcripts, assess coursework and award transfer credits.  Often, these paper-based practices are inefficient, prone to error and costly both in terms of dollars and missed opportunities.  Worse, some providers rely on stale, antiquated datasets that have been contaminated over the years by inattentiveness and improper coding. 

That’s why the goal is to be proactive.

Being proactive is the only way to successfully create a systematic, repeatable set of processes to smooth and transform college transfer.  Proactive institutions and academic departments work together to align curriculum, improve student guidance and implement stronger assessment practices to better predict, place and support students on their academic path.  They increase their transparency with valuable information such as articulation policies, transfer processes and course equivalency data.  After all, transfer students benefit most when they know how their courses may or may not transfer before they actually make the decision to enroll at an institution.  It allows them to determine their best transfer options based upon the number of credits they can take with them.  In the long run, such efforts save time and money for students and institutions alike.

AcademyOne builds the custom software higher education needs to address college transfer proactively.  We have developed systematic methods to create, syndicate and track student pathways between and among colleges and universities.  Learn more about our solutions, and read the success stories of our statewide transfer and articulation clients.

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