Transfer students less engaged on campus, study finds

Almost half of all college seniors took at least one course from another postsecondary institution before enrolling at their current institutions, according to the annual National Survey of Student Engagement released last week.

Education experts call the act of taking classes from multiple institutions “swirling,” and it has them concerned because the findings indicate that transfer students participate in fewer activities that supplement their learning experiences.

For the last six years, over 970 different U.S. colleges and universities have participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement, based out of Indiana University.

The survey aims to collect data that “will provide an estimate of how undergraduates spend their time and what they gain from attending college,” according to the survey’s website.

The 2005 report reveals that transferring during college is a common practice, but that students who do transfer are less engaged in the social and intellectual life of their campuses.

The study found that transfer students were less likely to work with professors on research projects, participate in community service or engage in other activities that enrich learning.

Students transfer for a variety of reasons. Most transfer survey respondents cited location and the availability of a specific academic program as factors in their decision to switch schools.

The survey also found that transfers from two-year schools reported less interaction with faculty after they had switched schools. While transfer students from four-year schools participated in more collaborative learning, they were generally less satisfied with college.

Eve Ardell, a senior at Colorado College in Colorado Springs transferred there after attending one semester at Lehigh University and then taking night classes at Northwestern University to finish out the academic year.

Ardell said she felt totally integrated into the academic community at Colorado College, but she feels socially left behind by her peers who have been at the school since their freshman year.

“I think it’s hard, especially during my senior year, when everyone who has been friends since freshman year are reminiscing and you aren’t apart of it. In my case, I also don’t feel as emotionally connected as I think I may if I’d been here since the beginning,” she said.

The National Survey of Student Engagement was developed by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching with the goal of giving colleges a better understanding of the campus environment as students experience it.

Professor George D. Kuh, the survey’s director, recently told the New York Times that “The project began as an antidote to the U.S. News ratings and other college rankings . Those rankings have a lot to do with prestige. But they have nothing to do with what happens to students.”

The survey questions thousands of students to gain a clear idea of the learning environment on individual campuses. Students are questioned about whether they have ever discussed readings with instructors outside of class, if they receive prompt feedback and if they have conversed with students that are significantly different from themselves.

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