Often in traditional, undergraduate enrollment offices, the primary focus for student recruitment is on new freshmen. They typically represent 75 percent or more of new student enrollments at many institutions. However, with the growth in enrollment at two-year public colleges during the last decade, treating college transfer students as an afterthought has been a missed opportunity for many campuses. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 25 percent of students who entered college in 2007 at age 20 or younger and completed a degree within six years did so at an institution other than the one where they started. And a third of all college students who began in 2006 transferred at least once within five years.
Enrolling transfer students brings a number of advantages to campuses. College transfer students typically generate higher average net tuition revenue than freshmen, do not create large pressures on housing, and enroll in upper-level courses that typically have capacity. These benefits should motivate campuses to shift the balance of new student enrollment to include a larger portion of transfers.
Changes in the higher education marketplace are making it more challenging to enroll transfer students. The combined effects of the declining number of high school graduates (and thus declining pool of available transfer students, delayed by a couple of years from what colleges have been experiencing in freshman enrollment) and the recent decline in enrollments at 2-year public institutions has made the transfer market increasingly competitive.
Engage college transfer students during the recruitment process, and maintain that engagement for retention
We often see institutions that execute best practices in transfer recruitment strategies, and others that have created an effective transfer-friendly campus culture for enrolled students, but rarely both. A transfer-friendly culture certainly aids in recruitment, and strong admissions engagement sets the stage for a positive campus experience. As it gets tougher out there, institutions will need to make sure they are “firing on all cylinders” to enroll and retain transfer students. Below are examples of best practices on both fronts. This is not intended as a comprehensive list, but if your institution is not engaged in many of these practices, it may signal that a review of strategies is in order.