The Transfer Puzzle: Identifying the Pieces

Transfer is no longer the exception to the rule in higher education. Major socioeconomic forces have positioned student transfer as the new normal with Covid exacerbating the glaring inefficiencies and inequities of the transfer process and experience. Institutions are now, more so than ever, positioned to be visionary and work to not only understand but to also leverage these forces in order to better serve today’s varied student-learners with educational, life and work experiences.

The continued and needed work of building pipelines from community colleges to four year institutions (especially from rural communities), making transfer student success a priority, creating clear programmatic pathways with aligned high-quality instruction, and providing tailored transfer student advising are best supported when taken into a holistic view. Once the policies are in place we must also examine the “how” behind this work. The “how” is where professionals develop on-the-ground policies and procedures that have a direct impact on transfer students. What are the tools? What are the systems? Who on campus needs to talk to whom to get this work done?

No matter the institution, transfer experts typically focus on a core set of “to dos” such as:

  • Effectively communicating relevant and timely information to transfer students.
  • Coordinating advising and articulation agreements with institutional partners.
  • Building out systems to support and provide a wide range of services to adult, working students
  • Reviewing academic and institutional policies to promote equity and access for all types of students
  • Thinking about transferring in not only traditional credit, but alternative credit type and prior learning as well

Additionally, as institutions aim to recruit and retain diverse student populations, there is a growing focus in the higher education community on facilitating academic mobility as well as increasing the use of technology to develop and enhance enrollment strategy. While ed-tech booms, institutions are challenged with building out offerings without building staff or worse, losing staff to the Great Resignation. Enrollment Managers and Administrators (plus their teams) are central to the work to be done in better serving transfer students, but are often missing from the conversations about transfer that focus exclusively on program maps or advising.

Also missing in the conversation are the specifics of how institutions are leveraging technology and cross-silo collaboration to innovate in new ways for today’s students. Enrollment Managers and Administrators are drivers of change and innovation at the institutional level and need specific examples of the way technology can be leveraged. What’s missing is deeper peer learning across institutions about the nuts and bolts of transfer improvement efforts that seek to leverage technology in new and better to innovate for transfer students? More attention needs to be paid to the way institutions like the College of Southern Maryland have created transfer plans within Student Planning software that enables students/advisors to load complete 2-year transfer and 4-yr graduation plans for partner institutions allowing students to access these plans from any device.

Or how Appalachian State University (NC) developed a Transfer Student Experience Strategic Plan to identify gaps in services, initiatives to create a better transfer student experience, and areas the university should focus on to ensure transfer student’s persistence and success. Or, how institutions such as Thomas Edison State University (NJ) have enhanced recruitment and retention by building robust pathways between prior learning and academic credit. These kinds of innovations are not simply about collaboration between academic affairs and advisors — they implicate a much wider range of campus players and place Enrollment Managers and Administrators firmly in the middle of this critical work.

At the 2022 AACRAO Technology & Transfer Summit over 500 participants from institutions of all types of institutions will spend three days choosing from more than 30 sessions specifically designed to help transfer professionals learn from the real practices of institutions seeking leverage technology not as a magic bullet but as a vital piece of the puzzle. Better conversations are needed about the specifics of building a comprehensive plan to improve outcomes for transfer students.

As we work together to push the levers of practice and policy, address inequities and inefficiencies, and generally just do better by our students we must also be intentional about making space for the “how” and sharing out the lessons learned from the wide array of actors implicated in implementation. This type of information sharing about the ‘how’ of transfer improvement efforts will provide educational institutions with the details necessary to take on the hard work of creating seamless pathways for the students of today and tomorrow.

Insiya Bream is the registrar and associate vice president at University of Maryland Global Campus and a content coordinator for the 2022 AACRAO Technology & Transfer Summit.

Seth Marc Kamen is an educational consultant at AACRAO and a content coordinator for the 2022 AACRAO Technology & Transfer Summit.

Katie Schwienteck is the registrar at Pennsylvania State University, York and a content coordinator for the 2022 AACRAO Technology & Transfer Summit

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