BY MARK LERNER – GUEST COLUMNIST
The turn of the academic calendar in the new year finds many students leaving one college and enrolling in another.
And when classes begin again in September, even more students will arrive as transfers. Roughly one third of all students will obtain their degree from an institution other than the one they started with. At the University of Minnesota, about 600 students in the spring, and 2,200 in the fall, began their college studies elsewhere, said Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.
“There are three or four major reasons why students transfer to the U of M,” said McMaster.
The largest number of transfer students comes from Minnesota community colleges. They typically arrive as juniors, having earned academic credits that cost significantly less than what they would have paid at the university.
McMaster pointed out that “admission standards are so high” at the university that many students would not have been accepted right out of high school.
“Our average ACT score for incoming freshmen is 28,” a number far higher than the national average of 21.
The breadth of academic programs also attracts many students coming from both community colleges and liberal arts colleges to the university, which has 150 undergraduate majors. In addition, homesickness plays a role in the transfer decisions of some students “who originally wanted to go out of state to study but later realized they should have stayed home,” said McMaster.
For its admission criteria, the U of M does not look at the ACT scores of transfer students. Rather, said McMaster, “we look at college grades alone, most after at least a full year.” If students have made it “through one year of college, that’s a good measurement” for the admissions office to consider, along with which colleges the student came from and “even more so the rigor of the curriculum.”
At the University of St. Thomas, about 15-20 percent of new students are transfers, said Joe Herrera, associate director of admissions. More come from Normandale Community College than from any other school. St. Thomas does not attempt to recruit students from other four-year institutions, but when students at two-year colleges “raise their hands” and ask for information, the St. Paul school provides it.
“We evaluate the credits that community college students have, and give them an idea of how close to graduation they are,” said Herrera.
St. Thomas also helps to determine how much federal and state need-based financial aid might be available, although most merit-based aid goes to incoming freshmen, not transfer students.
St. Thomas evaluates both high school and college course work to guide their admission decisions, giving more weight to work done at the college level. As a Catholic institution, St. Thomas requires that all students take courses in theology and philosophy in order to qualify for a degree.
When considering a move from one college to another, students should become familiar with the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC), a website that explains credit values and course work required for graduation from institutions statewide.
An Edina resident, Mark Lerner is the father of two college graduates and two current college students. He may be reached at [email protected]