Transfer students speak up in fall survey

NIU Transfer TurnpikeResults from NIU’s Fall 2012 Transfer Student Survey show that approximately 90 percent of NIU on-campus transfer students found the process of transferring to NIU to be “manageable,” “easy” or “very easy.”

The majority of transfer students also reported that they were “well prepared” or “extremely well prepared” by their community college to transition to the university in terms of study skills and knowledge in various content areas.

The report results reflect well on NIU, where nearly one-half of all students transfer from other institutions, and on the community colleges in this region.

NIU’s Higher Education Transitions Committee, consisting of representatives from NIU, community colleges, and regional high schools, requested the first transfer student survey in spring 2011. At that time, the committee charged NIU’s P-20 Center to administer the survey as part of the center’s initiative to facilitate seamless transitions across the entire educational continuum.

“It is very positive that about 90 percent of students say they managed the transfer process easily,” said Marilyn Bellert, associate director of the P-20 Center. “The clarity of this result actually makes improving the transfer process easier.”

Designers of the survey focused on two main goals.

  • First, the survey addressed NIU’s desire to determine where the transfer process worked well and where improvements were needed.
  • Second, the survey addressed the community colleges’ interest in how the process of transferring to NIU worked for their students.

Based on the usability of these surveys, Provost Ray Alden asked the P-20 Center to repeat the survey each fall. “The annual check on how the transfer process works helps NIU make improvements to better serve this essential part of our student body,” Vice Provost Anne Birberick said.

Recent data on community colleges supports the need to pay attention to transfer students.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, 45 percent of U.S. undergraduate students attend community colleges. This student population is growing in importance as NIU seeks to increase enrollment in today’s competitive landscape of higher education.

Andrew Hlubek
Andrew Hlubek

“More and more students are going the route of attending community colleges,” Andrew Hlubek, associate director of the NIU Transfer Center. “We want students considering NIU to know that we are listening to their needs.”

Many students who were surveyed emphasized the importance of NIU and community college advisers in the transfer process. When asked what advice they would give a friend who was interested in transferring to NIU, one of the most common responses was to meet with advisers at the community colleges early and often to understand what courses would transfer and what prerequisites they would need.

Transfer students also reported that NIU advisers provided support on academic issues and financial aid.

Michelle Pickett, director of the Academic Advising Center, said she found the results of the survey valuable. “This information helps frame the conversation when talking with students and parents,” Pickett said. “It gives us data to demonstrate the similarities and differences prospective students have with other students at NIU and to answer questions they ask us.”

In addition to the commitment of NIU and the community colleges to smoothing the transition for transfer students, the survey also asked students about their interest in new collaborations between the institutions. For students who did not complete an associate’s degree at their community college prior to transferring to NIU, the institutions are exploring the concept of a reverse transfer.

In a reverse transfer, credits from NIU would transfer back to the community college so that students could complete an associate’s degree using NIU credits. The survey indicated that 41 percent of students who did not already have an associate’s degree would be interested in reverse transfer.

Paul Crawford
Paul Crawford

Paul Crawford, NIU’s director of Community College Relations, said that innovative ideas like reverse transfers will shape the future of the transfer experience. Crawford, who works with the community colleges at an institutional level,  said that NIU is “committed to a mutually beneficial higher education system. This survey gives NIU and the community colleges more information to improve the process at every level.”

Community colleges represented in the survey data received a report on the aggregate of results from students transferring from their school.

Julie Schaid, associate dean of College Readiness and School Partnerships at Elgin Community College, anticipates using the results shared with her college. “We will review processes and share the information with the faculty and staff,” Schaid said. “The comments of individual Elgin transfer students are particularly helpful.”

A summary of the survey results and a composite of the three transfer student surveys are available online..

For more information about transferring to NIU, call (815) 753-0446 or toll-free at 800-892-3050 (ask to speak with a transfer counselor) or email transfercenter@niu.edu.

by Deborah Pixton

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