Each year, universities put time and money into recruiting outstanding students; for most, it is a top priority. Vying for students to increase enrollment as state funding declines, colleges and universities are continuously looking at ways to improve recruiting efforts and retention. One way the Haworth College of Business is finding success is through efforts at building relationships with community colleges, which this year has paid off in increased transfer enrollments.
Historically competitors for first-year students, the college of business and many Michigan community colleges are now working together to simplify transfer enrollment and encourage dual-enrollment, making the transition from a community college to a 4-year institution seamless.
“Transfer articulation agreements between institutions are the most prevalent form of cooperation,” says Dr. Christina Stamper, associate dean of undergraduate programs in the college of business. “The university and community college agree about which courses—usually freshmen- and sophomore-level courses—are equivalent and can transfer from the community college to the university, to help the student earn a 4-year degree.” Recent reverse articulation agreements also facilitate students’ use of credits from WMU to complete an associate’s degree, even after transferring.
Stamper notes that articulation agreements are just one way to strengthen relations with community colleges. Recognizing a need for building deeper relationships, the college appointed a community college recruiter. That new community college recruiter, Paul Hildenbrand, earned a Make-a-Difference award from the University highlighting his successes at increasing transfer enrollment and developing relationships with community colleges during his first year in the position. This fall the college enrolled 350 transfer business students, an increase of 5.2%, a small but significant increase. Noting a decline in enrollment at Michigan community colleges and a continuing decline in the number of high school graduates in Michigan, Stamper says a dedicated advisor for this area was needed to remain competitive.
“Relationships with the community colleges extend to potential transfer students. I provide on-site advising at numerous colleges and help ensure a smooth transition,” says Hildenbrand. “Educating potential students on the transfer process helps alleviate many concerns. For example, the most common misconception involves registration. Community colleges typically require tuition payment within 48 hours of registration, so many transfer students do not register early enough at WMU to get their ideal schedule. Assuring them that payment is not due immediately and that WMU classes are never dropped because of non-payment, promotes earlier registration and a more satisfied customer.”
Hildenbrand has received positive feedback from his efforts, which includes meeting with hundreds of students around the state. He contacts each admitted student prior to visiting a community college, offering advising and providing transfer guides. “The community college administrators are glad that they have one person who they know students can contact any time,” says Hildenbrand.
While efforts at encouraging transfer enrollment continue, the college and the University are looking creatively at ways to attract more students, especially in light of the decreasing high school population in Michigan. In his State of the University address, John M. Dunn, president of WMU, said that the University is increasing its efforts in reaching out to non-resident students. Citing the relative ease with which a student can gain residency in Michigan after one year, Dunn says “the initial sticker shock (of out-of-state costs) may be the obstacle and we have to look at that very thoughtfully and carefully.”
Dr. Kay Palan, dean, notes that the college of business is also working outside Michigan. “We have dedicated more resources not only to recruiting transfer students but also to recruiting first-year students and international students,” says Palan. “For the college, it is important that we have a talented and diverse student body. We must be attuned to changing demographics and innovative ways to connect with talented students, and we must consistently evaluate our efforts. Taking a strategic and future-oriented approach to recruitment ensures the vibrancy and health of the college, not just in this recruitment year but for years to come.”
By the numbers
- Of the 1,730 transfer students that enrolled at WMU, 70% are from Michigan community colleges with an average transfer GPA of 3.0.
- 326 students transferred into the Haworth College of Business in fall 2013. 64 of these were undecided of a specific business major. Hildebrand says he assists students in this area, sharing the college’s detailed information about coursework and careers with students he advises.