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UW Looks to Increase Efficiency of Student Transfer Process


Rebecca Zook (left), a transfer student from Casper College, and Sarah Heeg (right), a transfer from Central Wyoming College, work in the lab with their zoology teaching assistant, John Whitman. (UW Photo)

For years, the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges have worked together to assist the student transfer process. Now, the university is part of the Wyoming Transfer Council, which wants to make it even easier for students — young and old — attending the state’s community colleges to matriculate to Laramie. Patrice Noel and Joanna Anderson are leading the charge.

“They’re (transfer students) a significant group at UW. While we have programs for new freshmen, we need to focus on this population,” says Noel, coordinator of student success and transition in UW’s Center for Advising and Career Services, and co-chair of the Wyoming Transfer Council. “This is one of President Tom Buchanan’s institutional priorities. The goal is to enhance the transfer experience.”

The council’s plans include implementation of a three-pronged approach that involves electronic transfer of transcripts to increase the efficiency and speed of the process; creation of a dual admission and advising process for Wyoming community college students transferring to UW; and bolstering the number of baccalaureate degrees for 25- to 64-year-old people with an associate’s degree or higher in Wyoming. The council’s goals for 2012-13 were discussed at its September meeting.

Council Origins

The first-ever Wyoming Transfer Conference took place in Casper during October 2011. At that conference, UW and Wyoming community college representatives created an action plan focused on assisting students who are considering transferring to UW, as well as transfer students in the midst of enrolling at UW; and how best to integrate transfer students into UW.

As a result of that conference, the Wyoming Transfer Council was established in March 2012. The council is composed of two representatives from each community college, as well one each from the UW Outreach School and UW. The council’s goal is to enhance communication, collaboration and support among Wyoming’s community colleges and UW relative to the transfer student experience.

Along with Noel, Anderson, vice president for student services at Casper College, co-chairs the council.

Of UW’s 2,404 graduates in 2010-11, 1,709 or 71 percent of those students have taken courses at community colleges, according to a Sept. 10 article from Inside Higher Education. That 71 percent figure ranked second nationally to the University of Texas’s 78 percent, according to the study conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse.

This fall, 1,119 new transfer students nationwide enrolled at UW. Of that total, 752 or 67.2 percent came from Wyoming’s community colleges, Noel says. Of those, Laramie County Community College (182) and Casper College (145) provided the most transfer students. After in-state transfers, the largest influx of transfer students was from Colorado, California and then Montana, Utah and Nebraska.

“We want to be more transparent, provide more services early on and be more collaborative so the students win,” says Noel, who came to UW a year ago after serving as assistant to the dean of undergraduate studies at Clemson University. “This is a significant population we need to be paying attention to.”

Transfer steps

A major council initiative is to improve the efficiency and speed of getting transcripts of the state’s community college students into UW’s hands. Currently, the community colleges email the transcript data which, in turn, UW has to keystroke into its Banner system. This takes a considerable amount of time and allows for the possibility of errors in data entry, Noel says.

Wyoming’s community colleges and UW, using the University of Texas-Austin’s free and secured server (used by hundreds of universities and colleges), want to exchange real transcript data rather than images that need to be entered into student systems. This process is expected to significantly increase the efficiency and accuracy of transferring credits of students among Wyoming’s community colleges and UW.

“If 25 students from Casper College want to transfer to UW, the transcript data can go through a secure server,” Noel says. “That will eliminate time and any errors that might be made. Efficiency and having transcripts be accurate are the most important issues.”

The council also is in the “exploration stage” of creating an appropriate model for dual admission and advising in the state, Noel says. Council members believe a more collaborative approach between UW and community colleges is needed to make the transfer process in Wyoming more transparent and seamless.

One possible solution would be to have students from Wyoming’s community colleges identify an interest in earning bachelor’s degrees on their admission applications or registration forms, Noel says. The student information would be shared with UW admissions officials so that pre-advising could take place before a community college student officially transfers.

“If we could flag the students earlier who we know plan to come to UW, we could advise them earlier so that they take classes they need that won’t put them behind,” Noel says.

For example, Noel says a student who plans to major in engineering would be advised to take a physics course with calculus at the community college level rather than a physics course with algebra. Taking the latter course would not translate to credits at UW, she says.

“It’s a matter of making sure students are taking the right courses and in the right sequence,” Noel says.

UW already has an articulation agreement in place with Wyoming’s community colleges. Under the agreement, any student who has obtained an associate’s degree from a Wyoming community college will have satisfied the university’s general education requirements, now and in the future, Noel says.

“It (articulation agreement) also will apply to our new general education program,” she says. “That’s a pretty nice carrot.”

In addition, the council desires to increase the number of 25- to 64-year-olds — with an associate’s degree or higher — in the state. Wyoming ranks 29th out of 50 states for the number of people who have earned college degrees, according to the Lumina Foundation, a private, independent foundation based in Indianapolis, Ind. It is the nation’s largest foundation dedicated exclusively to increasing students’ access to and success in post-secondary education, according to its website.

“Our current (presidential) administration said we need to be making strides in this area,” Noel says, referencing President Barack Obama’s goal of leading the world with the highest share of college graduates by 2020.

Approximately 37 percent of Wyoming’s adults hold college degrees, according to the Lumina Foundation. The council wants to make progress toward Lumina’s completion goal of 60 percent by 2020.

The council plans to host a statewide one-day conference on transfer student success during May 2013.

UW initiatives

Since her arrival a year ago, Noel, with a team from UW, has spearheaded a number of UW initiatives focused on improving the transfer student experience. These include:

  • Creation of a transfer resources web page that includes information that can help transfer students integrate into campus life at UW. For more information, go to http://www.uwyo.edu/cacs/transfer-resources/index.html.
  • Creation of a “Steps to Transfer Success” brochure that is provided to incoming transfer students. Tips include how to get to know your peers and professors; staying on top of your academic progress, financial aid and scholarships; and ways to become active and involved on campus.
  • Integration of activities and events geared to transfer and nontraditional students during fall orientation. These included a welcome dinner, an ice cream social, drop-in tables, a student resource fair, and seminars that provided tips on how to use computers in college and available computing resources on campus, as well as how to be comfortable in the classroom.

“There are a number of initiatives we do specifically at the university,” Noel says. “There are a number of things we do to work with colleges across the state.”

For more information about the Wyoming Transfer Council, contact Noel at pnoel@uwyo.edu or Anderson at janderson@caspercollege.edu.

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