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Transfer students raise enrollment

December 3, 2009

Two-year campuses and community colleges are becoming more popular as launching pads to four-year institutions, officials at area campuses said.

The UW System of colleges and universities now includes 13 two-year campuses to match the number of established four-year universities.

Alan Tuchtenhagen, associate vice chancellor for enrollment services at UW-River Falls, said roughly one-third of new students every year come as transfer students.

However, the majority of those students are not coming from in-state.

“The largest supplier of transfer students are the Minnesota community colleges, Century College and Inver Hills,” he said. “We don’t draw that many from the UW campuses primarily because of distance.”

The closest two-year campus to River Falls in the UW System is UW-Barron County, which is just over 70 miles away. UW-Stout and UW-Eau Claire are both closer to UW-Barron County than UWRF.

“When [two-year students] transfer to a four-year, they’re looking for a lot of the same things that the two-year offered, such as the ability to stay close to home,” Tuchtenhagen said. “Students are working more and live at home as a result.”

Being the director of community relations at Century College in White Bear Lake, Minn., Nancy Livingston said she is seeing changes in the way students are beginning their post-secondary education.

“Our fall enrollment is up 13 percent,” she said. “We only expected a two percent increase. Our facility people have analyzed our classroom usage and we’re absolutely full.”

The major jump in enrollment for fall semester is coupled with more moderate growth over the past four years, Livingston said.

Along with Century’s close proximity to many prospective students in the Twin Cities, the schools popularity has grown because of its price, Livingston said.

“We’re that affordable option,” she said. “We’re $150 a credit, about half of the [University of Minnesota].”

A full-time student with 15 credits at UWRF spent $217 per credit this fall, according to the University’s Web site.

Assistant campus dean for student services at UW-Barron County, Dale Fenton, said full-time students there are spending $2,353 per semester this year, or $156 apiece for 15 credits.

Former UWRF and UW-Barron County student Michael Keown is originally from the Spooner, Wis. area. He said the availability of a two-year school allowed him to continue his education when a four-year
university wasn’t affordable.

“I started at Eau Claire and after a while it was too expensive, but Barron was only 30 miles from home,” he said. “It was close enough to where I could stay at home and help at my parents’ resort, too.”

Total enrollment at UW-Barron County is up nine percent this year from the average of around 625 students, he said.

Aside from the location and cost benefits, admissions requirements are not typically as stringent at the UW colleges as they are at the four-year universities.

UW-Barron County looks for students whose grades were in the upper 75 percent of their graduating class, Fenton said. Though an ACT score is also required, a minimum standard score is not necessary.

As a part of UWRF’s admissions requirements, students admitted were usually in the top 40 percent of their class and earned a 22 or higher on the ACT, according to the University’s Web site. The elementary
education or animal science programs often require an ACT score of 24 or higher.

“We’re not total open enrollment, but we do see ourselves as an option to students who may have difficulty going directly to a four-year institution,” Fenton said.

Century College has no admissions standards, Livingston said. All incoming students take a placement test and are allowed into classes based on the test score and any previous coursework.

“Our mission is to serve everyone with a high school diploma or GED,” she said.

UWRF accepts transfer students based on several criteria, Tuchtenhagen said. Often, it’s a matter of whether or not space is available in a major or program.

Determining whether or not to accept a transfer applicant requires a more “holistic approach,” he said.

“After about a year, we don’t require their high school transcripts,” he said. “We have transfer guides for every two-year campus in the area.”

Keown, who currently attends Chippewa Valley Technical College’s River Falls campus, said when he decided to transfer from Barron County to UWRF, the transition was very smooth.

“At CVTC I’ve had trouble getting my credits from River Falls to transfer, but all my credits from Barron transferred because it’s a UW school,” he said.