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Supporting Your Part-Time and Transfer-In Students

July 6, 2020

There are over two million part-time undergraduate students at four-year colleges and universities in the United States. Often times, part-time and transfer in students don’t get the attention they need. Kristina Powers, President, Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education, shared her research on these two demographics in a recent Kuali webinar. Read on to find out how to calculate your institution’s approximate part-time student population on your own, the challenges transfer students face, and opportunities to better support them. 

Part-Time Students Projected to Increase

History suggests that when unemployment increases, the number of part-time students increases. This was apparent in the 2008 recession. However, unlike in 2008, individuals seeking further education don’t have to enroll in traditional education. The online education industry, which includes online college courses as well as courses from alternative programs like MasterClass and Udemy, is projected to reach $319 billion by 2025. 

How is your institution attracting and retaining part-time students?

Discover Your Part-Time Student Rate on Your Own

You may be able to impact part-time students but you’re not sure how many of them attend your institution. Powers shared a #protip on finding the number of part-time students at your institution without asking anyone around you. 

  1. Visit the NCES’s College Navigator
  2. Search for your institution via the search bar
  3. Expand the “Enrollment” section
  4. There you can see total undergraduate enrollment and a graph showing part-time and full-time students as percentages. With these numbers, you’re left with a simple math problem. 

Know Your Transfer Students

Clients and peers often ask Powers, “Why do you focus on transfer students as well as part-time students?” Well, because they’re a significant demographic to consider. 40% of first-time freshmen begin at a community college. The majority of students who transfer to four-year institutions do so without earning a degree first. Beyond data, I personally think Powers would add that this group is underserved in many different ways. 

Challenges for Transfer Students 

  • Politics in academic cultures i.e. curricular gaps and culture differences
  • Environmental differences i.e. the size of the institution, lengthy processes, large class sizes
  • Absence of articulation agreements. Articulation agreements have been in place for 25-30 years, however, transferring can still be difficult today. 
  • Perceived disparities in student academic preparedness i.e., the belief that community college students are less prepared than students who started at a four-year college 
  • Costs 

Supporting Transfer Students

  • Have articulation agreements in place
  • Offer pre-transfer credit evaluations
  • Increased engagement for transfer students through transfer-themed residence halls, advisors who concentrate on transfer students, and transfer representatives on student government

Consider supporting and developing programs and services even further than what already exists. One of the difficult challenges for transfer students is becoming accustomed to the new processes of a four-year institution. To combat this, institutions can implement process automation software, like Kuali Build, so that paper processes move faster in digital form and the same software is used across departments, which decreases the learning curve for transfer-in students. 

“It’s easier to keep a student rather than finding new students.” - Kristina Powers, President, Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education

Measuring the Success of Part-Time and Transfer-In Students

We often fall back on graduation rate as the be-all-end-all metric for institutional success. However, the graduation rate typically doesn’t include part-time and transfer-in students. It focuses instead on full-time first-time students. 

So, how do you measure the success of these students?

That’s where the Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education (IEHE) comes in. IEHE has developed a RealityCheck Rate which is an institution’s expected completion rate after accounting for student characteristics and institutional characteristics. This metric is specifically designed to take into account the uniqueness of both institution and student because not all students and all institutions are a perfect match. 

If you’re interested in learning more, you can view the full webinar here.


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