SRU fosters transfer student success
Kara Yasika (left) an SRU graduate student from Chicora who works in admissions, chats about transfer-student recruitment with Robert Lagnese, SRU associate director of admissions. Lagnese coordinates transfer admissions.
July 20, 2015
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Oh where or where did that student go? According to a report issued recently by Indiana University's Project on Academic Success and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, the student most likely transferred to another institution.
The report, "Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2008 Cohort," points out that of the 3.6 million students who entered college for the first time in fall 2008, 37.2 percent transferred to a different institution at least once within six years. Of students who transferred, almost half changed their institution more than once. Counting multiple moves, the students transferred from one institution to another 2.4 million times from 2008 to 2014.
While the national numbers may be eye opening to some, Robert Lagnese, SRU associate director of admissions who coordinates transfer admissions, said he wasn't surprised at all.
SRU has a very healthy transfer student population. "We bring in almost 1,000 transfers in the course of a year," said Lagnese, who began in Undergraduate Admissions in 1998. "Many of our transfers come from community colleges. Typically, about 50 percent of all transfers at SRU are at the sophomore level or below."
Factors driving SRU's transfer success include affordability, academic options and articulation agreements with the 14 community colleges statewide and Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education institutions.
"I am not surprised by the number of students who are transferring because they're looking for affordability and accessibility," Lagnese said. "Transfer students are savvy and know what they need and want the best opportunities."
Students start their higher education at community colleges for many reasons. Some can't afford to transition directly from high school into a four-year institution. Others don't have clear career goals and want to explore options, and some need to shore up their academic credentials.
The program-to-program agreements with the 14 community colleges drive enrollment success, Lagnese said, because they ensure students there will be a seamless transition of credits from their community college to SRU.
"High school graduation rates fluctuate," he said. "When that happens, we have been able to draw students from two-year schools due to statewide formal agreements. The transfer numbers help us maintain enrollment goals."
The agreements give community college students a plan for guaranteed admission to SRU, provided they meet academic requirements such as a 2.0 grade-point average. Students meet with an SRU transfer admissions counselor to develop a plan for taking general education and major-appropriate courses at community colleges, lowering tuition costs. Students traditionally plan to transfer for their junior year. Community college students choosing to major in programs not offered at their community college, such as geology or exercise science, are encouraged to make the transition sooner to keep them on track for graduation.
"Transfer students are an enrollment priority," Lagnese said. "When high school graduation rates decrease, the state has created a productive option for us to build a solid relationship with community college students. A seamless transition exists between institutions, and there are going to be more coming from two-year schools because of the affordability factor."
Athletics continues to play a role in transfer success, he said, because some student-athletes don't find a good "fit" at their first college for different reasons. Campus environment, cost, and academics are key factor when choosing an institution.
Lagnese said SRU's transfer admission is different from most schools because it offers a centralized approach for counseling and enrolling prospective students. Elizabeth Stevens, associate director of admissions, and Emily Riggs, assistant director of admissions, work with Lagnese in the transfer area.
SRU is also unique because admission counselors follow through with students to help them connect to organizations and resources. In addition, SRU prides itself on offering outreach to at-risk students and returning military veterans who want to make the most of their college education.
"We build a relationship from the beginning of the application process," he said. "When they come in for an appointment, we show them how credits transfer and project degree-completion requirements. It becomes an informal contract."
"I'm willing to say that almost everybody who sits in one of these chairs commits to the institution after visiting," he said. "We seal the deal when we can address admissions questions, showcase our degrees and evaluate prior coursework all in one visit."
Connor MacKelvey, a senior from Fairview, transferred to SRU from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012. He attended Pitt for one semester before transferring when he lost interest in majoring in engineering. He switched to early childhood and special education at SRU, where he is thriving with a 4.0 grade-point average.
"Maintaining a perfect, cumulative 4.0 GPA does not come easy," he said. "Through the assistance of having one-on-one interactions with all of my professors during office hours, I feel welcome here at Slippery Rock University. All of my professors know me by name, understand my work ethic and strive to answer any questions I may have pertaining to my major of early childhood education and special education.
He said attending a well-known academic institution recognized for its remarkable College of Education, has numerous benefits. "I feel my money is being well-spent in receiving the best education possible. In receiving my degree from Slippery Rock University, I will be entering the work force with a positive and professional outlook."
MacKelvey has immersed himself in campus activities. He participates in cross county and track and field, served two years as a community assistant in Building D and Watson Hall, joined the National Science Teacher Association and became treasurer of the Early Childhood Club. He is a Dean's List student who has been honored as a Presidential Scholar.
"I personally do not find myself as being an SRU success story, I find SRU to be 'my' success story," he said. "SRU opened its doors, community and campus to me as I became actively involved on campus. I seriously cannot think of a better institution at which to pursue my degree."
"Without the help and support of the campus community in welcoming me with open arms, who knows where I would be today," he said. "Slippery Rock University is my rock solid success story."
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