It’s a tough combination. While university undergraduate enrollment offices are relying on the transfer marketplace more than ever, higher education has seen mostly across-the-board declines in transfers since the pandemic. In front of this tricky backdrop, institutions cannot afford to miss crucial opportunities.
Here are three easy questions you can ask your enrollment team about what you might be doing wrong … or not doing at all.
No. 1: Do we have a strategic plan for transfers?
Universities know transfers are important, but they often don’t know what to do about it (or so it seems). The transfer pool has traditionally been organic. This can make enrollment and the funnel more difficult to predict. That’s why some institutions make their new transfer goal by taking last year’s transfer enrollment number … and adding one or more students to their goal.
Let’s be fair. It is harder for a school to be intentional with transfer efforts when the pool is so organic. There are not as many marketing and recruiting levers for you to pull when it comes to transfer students. Sure, you can send recruiters to transfer fairs, but these events are typically hit or miss.
That’s why enrollment professionals are less productive about implementing strategic enrollment plans specific to transfers. They will take cover in the fact that transfers are in an organic funnel. So, they fail to audit what has been done in the past. They don’t ask, “Did it work? Did it not work?”
No. 2: Do we move fast enough with our transfers?
Transfer students are super impatient. If they don’t get answers quickly, they move on! They demand responsiveness. And that can be challenging for you and your staff because the transfer enrollment process often involves several different departments: admissions, the registrar, communications and marketing, financial aid, academic department athletics … and so on.
It’s crucial for you to have relationships between key offices to expedite efforts involving prospective transfer students. You need to establish procedures among these offices to make this process smooth, seamless and quick. Same-day or next-day answers are a must!
One effective method is having a “transfer specialist” in the registrar’s office. Credit transfer is a huge concern for anyone moving from one school to the next. Also, like most prospective students today, transfers are cost conscious. Having someone in your financial aid office focused on transfers can be beneficial.
It’s important to remember that prospective transfer students are seeking answers to questions before they decide to apply. The application is usually not their first step of interest. The application typically comes after they’ve decided on the school.
No. 3: Are we passing up easy wins?
Too many universities ignore some of the available resources for maximizing their transfer enrollment efforts. Most obviously, the National Student Clearinghouse has a list of “non-matriculating” students who applied but didn’t enroll at your institution — or students who enrolled at a competitor or local community college.
Also, universities often fail to adequately leverage articulation agreements in the transfer marketplace. These are agreements with local community colleges that allow you to begin relationships with students as they enter community college. This way, a school can give these students an action plan — a map to matriculating to their school — when they enroll at the community college.
This requires you to be present with local community colleges, or feeder schools. Members of your enrollment office need to be on campus — not only to promote articulation agreements but also to give your university face time. Making community college students brand aware is absolutely paramount!
And, finally, institutions too often leave interested leads on the table … or in this case, on your website. Transfer students want you to cut to the chase. More than first-year students, they might actually need to talk to people. The ability to grab their interest and personalize interactions with them while they’re on your website is something that is becoming much more common in the market.
By Capture Higher Ed’s Team of Enrollment Experts