UI program focuses on needs of transfer students

BY KRISTEN EAST | MARCH 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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Jack Hasso, who transferred to the University of Iowa from the University of Kentucky in the middle of his freshman year, says the UI's easy transition process helped with his decision.

"… The transition process was made so easy," the UI freshman said. "The UI staff really helped me through a process that was daunting at first. Everything went really smoothly, and the Iowa staff was always organized and prepared to help me get into Iowa."

Though the UI's retention rate for first-year students was 86 percent in 2010, UI officials said a program started last summer — Transfer Think Tank — is focused primarily on having discussions and supporting students who transfer to the university.

"We talk about [transfer students] as if they're a homogenous population, but they're not," said Sarah Hansen, UI Student Life's director of assessment and strategic initiatives. "There can be a lot of subpopulations that we don't want to segment off, so it makes sense to do this type of thing."

Roughly 1,300 students transferred to the UI for the fall of 2011. According to a recent National Student Clearinghouse report on college transfer students, more than one-third of students transfer at least once during their college careers.

Hansen said Transfer Think Tank is proactive in that it not only holds meetings among key UI staff, it also reaches out to transfer students.

The program started after Michelle Cohenour, the UI's director of retention, held a transfer-student focus group with around 20 students last spring.

"It was one-on-one interactions with transfer students who were bringing up needs," Cohenour said. "We want to continue to learn about transfer students and hear the student voice. We need to know what's working, what to do, and what [the students] want more of."

Hansen said the program may issue a survey for transfer students next fall and hold additional focus groups.

Transfer Think Tank works extensively with Kirkwood Community College, which ranked the UI's top in-state feeder school for the fall of 2011 after transferring 366 students. Cohenour met with Kirkwood officials in January to discuss the transition for students to and from the UI and vice versa.

"We've talked about how we can make that process seamless for students," Cohenour said.

The National Student Clearinghouse report found that 50 percent of transfer students start at a four-year university and transfer to a two-year university.

Laura Riley, a coordinator for Kirkwood's Advising and Transfer Center, said school officials have also noticed a growing trend in students transferring from four-year universities.

"One of the biggest reasons for this we've noticed is indecision," Riley said. "Students start [at a four-year university] and realize they went in choosing the wrong program. It's more affordable for students to make up their minds while they're here."

Kirkwood officials were unable to provide specific transfer-student data Sunday evening.

Though Transfer Think Tank has only met a few times since it began, Hansen said the group will develop more initiatives at their upcoming April meeting after speaking with additional students who have transferred to the UI.

"We haven't created any big initiatives," she said. "We're still identifying these problems. But we hope to gather a lot more information at our next meeting."

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