President Speaks: There’s only upside for colleges to improve transfer policies

by Jeremy

Editor’s note: Mary Hawkins is the president of Bellevue University, a private institution in Nebraska.

Transfer students are considered a new enrollment frontier for many colleges. That makes sense, considering that transfer students account for around 1.3 million students enrolled in postsecondary education.

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Bellevue University has welcomed transfer students into its community for 40 years — more than half of our existence. We’ve done this because we needed to rethink our strategy in the mid-1980s when we almost closed. We shifted our institutional focus to degree completion and took dramatic steps to allow students with prior credit to finish what they started. Improving credit mobility for transfer students made sound economic sense. And we started growing enrollment.

But that wasn’t the only outcome of this new direction.

We found that transfer students, especially community colleges, have the college “know-how” needed to succeed. Unlike novice learners, community college transfer students understand the ins and outs of registering, enrolling, going to class, and, especially, completing assignments on time. They’re likely familiar with learning management systems and online portals. And they are often more adept at using technology because they may have used emerging platforms and techniques in their workplaces.

We’ve also found transfer students often bring valuable real-world experience into both in-person and virtual classrooms. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, around two-thirds of full-time students attending community colleges also have jobs.

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