U of M to accept fewer transfer students

Fewer transfers at the U in the future
Students walk across the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus on Monday, Oct. 24, 2011. The university says in the future it will accept fewer transfer students, to concentrate on giving transfers a better experience.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

If you're a college student thinking about transferring to the University of Minnesota, pay attention: it's about to get tougher to make the cut.

Aiming to improve the experience and performance of transfer students, the university plans to allow fewer in the door. That means more competition for students hoping to make the jump to the university.

Bob McMaster, dean of undergraduate education, said university officials appreciate and welcome transfer students. He said 35 percent of undergraduates are transfers, considerably higher than many other research universities. For example, about 17 percent of students at the University of Wisconsin and Michigan State University are transfer students.

But after spending two years looking at how transfers students adjust to their new school, univeristy officials decided they have too many, McMaster said. He said the university, which now admits about 2,500 transfer students a year, plans to have transfer students make up 33 percent of the student population.

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As a result, the university will accept 300 fewer transfer students next fall. McMaster said that will allow the school to concentrate more resources on fewer transfers.

"Our transfer students on balance do not have the same kind of positive experience here as our undergraduates," he said.

Low satisfaction reported by transfer students in surveys seems to translate into reduced retention and graduation rates.

The five-year graduation rate for transfers is 55 percent, compared to 70 percent for students who have spent all of their undergraduate years at the university.

McMaster says the university needs to do a better job of welcoming transfer students to campus, tracking their academic progress and making sure they enroll in the classes they need.

However, allowing fewer transfers will make it harder for some students to make the move from a community college to the University of Minnesota. That worries community college officials.

"Whatever limits our students options would be of some concern to us," said Robb Lowe, interim director of advising and counseling at Normandale Community College in Bloomington.

Lowe said the University of Minnesota is a favorite transfer destination for Normandale students. Last year, 338 of them transferred there, the most to any one school.

The university's decision, Lowe said, also will mean more competition among community college students.

"Part of what we'll need to do is inform students that it may be a little bit more challenging to get to the U," he said. "We'll encourage them to do the best they can while they're here."

There are a number of reasons why students start at a community college and then make the switch to the University of Minnesota. But the biggest factor seems to be the price. Tuition at a community college costs half of what it does at the university, where students pay about $11,000 for a year of classes.

That's why 19-year-old Amara Volimas, of Lakeville, Minn., began her college career at Normandale last year. Next year she hopes to transfer.

"I plan on getting an associate arts degree here, then I going to go to the U of M, and become an art teacher hopefully," she said.

Volimas is talking with a transfer specialist from the university about how to make that happen.

The transfer specialist helped Volimas sort out the classes she should take now to get into the university next year. She also she told Volimas to keep her grades up, as most colleges at the university want transfer students to have a GPA of 3.1 or higher before they will accept them in.

McMaster said that competition has been something students straight out of high school have been up against for several years now.

This fall the University of Minnesota freshman class only had room for a little more than 5,000 students; 40,000 applied.

"We haven't been quite as selective with transfers as we have been with freshmen," he said. "This is better aligning the two sets of requirements to get into the university."

McMaster said while the university is reducing the number of spots offered to transfer students, it's working to better align its course requirements with those in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, where most of the university's transfer students come from.