Member Moments: University of San Francisco on efforts to attract and retain transfer students
Last week was National Student Transfer Week, and Common App had the opportunity to sit down with April Crabtree, Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Admission at the University of San Francisco to learn more about what they’re doing to recruit and retain transfer students.
What is the University of San Francisco doing to better attract and recruit transfer students?
Everything we could possibly think of. Recruiting and admitting transfer students at the University of San Francisco is an enormous piece of what we’re doing, and we’re putting a lot of energy into it.
One of the things we’ve started with is simplifying the application process. Part of that was joining Common App for transfer, but we’ve made incremental changes like dropping the requirements for letters of recommendation. We’ve changed our decision deadlines to be in line with the University of California system. In the past we’ve had different deadlines and it was too much to manage for applicants.
Our applicants are also looking for transparency around the application process. We have augmented our website so there are very clear timelines and processes. Our website has clear guidelines as to when documents are due.
USF has also expanded its outreach plan to recruit transfer students. We’ve identified 12 community colleges in the state of California that are priorities. Some of those colleges get a visit from USF once a month or more depending on how many students are applying to USF from these schools. We offer advising appointments in the transfer center offering on the spot admissions. We are certainly trying to be present more in the Bay Area and in pieces of Southern California.
One of the hurdles that most transfer students encounter is how their previously earned credits will transfer to USF. There is no limit to the total number of credits that can be transferred in. Once you are admitted to USF, you will receive access to an online degree evaluation on the our website detailing how your previous coursework has transferred and if it meets USF core curriculum requirements. The time needed to complete your degree will depend on your total number of credits and their distribution toward USF graduation requirements.
Our portal also includes a degree estimator, where students can put in whatever major they are interested in, and it gives the student an estimate based on historical data how long it would take them to graduate.
Our last big thing is on campus housing. We can’t guarantee transfer students housing at USF. And that’s a worry, so we started a transfer housing summit. Students committed can come to campus during the summer to stay in the residence halls for free. Student housing then does a workshop to help students find off-campus housing. They can use that staff in a one-on-one way. It’s been very successful and there’s been no summer melt because of a lack of housing.
What resources exist that can make the transfer process easier on students?
We need to do a better job in general of being transparent with students. Transferring to a different institution is an investment of their time and there are financial aid implications. One of our upcoming projects is to do a forward-facing credit service. You can go in and say I'm at my current institution, how can I transfer over my current credits?
One of the things we’re creating this year is a community college advisory board. We are going to bring in transfer advisors from the Bay Area and hear first-hand about what their students are saying. For a while the conversation was, ‘students don’t look at private schools and there are no pathways.’ Flexibility allows us to work with students, but there’s not always a concrete pathway. We’ve got to get to the bottom of some of those issues. We need to have a united effort. We’re reviving a transfer advisory group to talk about the whole life of transfer students and their experience.
The last thing I want to add is that transfer students are an important part of any access effort. Anytime we’re talking about equity and inclusion, transfer students are center to that conversation. If we’re really being true to our mission of expanding access and education as social mobility, we need to come up with true authentic efforts. We’re talking credits, housing and timing, but also remembering that they’re individuals. How do we make sure that when we’re reaching out, there are lots of ways to be nurtured.