John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Discrimination Against Transfer Students: Part 2

John N. Gardner

In my previous posting I was attempting to enumerate examples of disadvantageous discrimination against transfer students. I was just getting started with several examples of discrimination, having presented two such. Here are some more.

3. Eligibility for on-campus residential living accommodations: in part, because of demand outstripping supply, and the long standing tradition of requiring on-campus housing only for first-year students, the majority of institutions do not have capacity to provide on campus housing for all the students who might desire such. Priority then is almost universally given to new, first-year students, and continuing students, space permitting. In that sort or prioritization, transfers are left either out or way behind. This affects probability of degree attainment as we have long known that one of the better predictors of who will graduate is where the student lived (on or off campus), particularly in the first year. Bottom line: on campus residency predicts for degree completion.

4. Orientation: This is another traditional college function that was designed for the “traditional” aged student, largely who was beginning college for the first time at a given university. There is a grossly disproportionate emphasis in terms of institutional time, energy and effort already directed to this function with variance by institutional type. This means that the more selective, residential, traditional aged student focused, and baccalaureate degree awarding the institution is, the more likely it is to devote substantial support for orientation for new and native students. Many institutions will even require orientation for its new students. In these same institutions, this will almost never be the case for transfer students, for whom orientation if offered at all, will be “optional” and will be much less extensive. In spite of evidence that transfer students need orientation, and that just because a transfer student was successful at a prior institution, does not mean the same student will be as successful at the new institution, orientation is not offered for transfers with the same degree of emphasis, time, options, imprimatur. In effect then, we are giving transfers more opportunity to be less successful than native students.

5. Academic Advising: Due to the professionalization of academic advising underway on college campuses since the late 1970’s, with the advent of the National Association for Academic Advising in 1977, it is now well established, especially in baccalaureate institutions, that first-year students are well identified targets of opportunity and priority for emphasis for intrusive academic advising, often coupled with “early alert” systems to monitor signs of student underperformance in courses more typically taken by traditional new students. Such early alert systems are usually not targeted on either transfer students per se or especially on upper division courses that transfer students are more likely to be enrolled in. Institutions have made great investments in the recruitment, selection, training, evaluation, and rewarding of academic advisors for students new to college. There is no comparable effort for transfer students. Rather than being advised in a central intake advising unit, transfer students are much more likely to be advised on a decentralized basis in the academic units which award the degrees they transferred to obtain. With respect both to priority and quality in these units, academic advising is a cottage industry with almost no institution-wide effort to guarantee common standards for the quality of this effort. Hence, once again, the odds are stacked in favor of the native students.

6. Registration: all colleges have course registrations that include some kind of system for prioritization. And within that priority system, there are evidences of transfers receiving lower registration priority than native and continuing students. Obviously, when you register determines the probability the student will be able to receive optimal times, and especially access to required courses needed for timely progression in the major.

The above are enough for one posting. Do any of these apply to your institution? If so, how might you address some redress of these?

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