Minnesota students transfer more often

A quarter of MN six-year graduates transfer before they graduate.

by Tyler Gieseke

Minnesota has the highest percentage of students who change colleges after starting at a four-year public university, according to a recent report.

About 27 percent of six-year graduates who started at four-year public universities in Minnesota in 2006 changed colleges before graduating — the highest percentage of the 48 states studied. The next highest was North Dakota, where less than 19 percent did so.

While it’s hard to know the reason, said Bob McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, this could be the result of a policy allowing liberal education requirements to easily transfer between schools within the University of Minnesota system or the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

If students have completed all their general requirements at one of these schools, McMaster said they won’t have to complete any at their new institution. But if they’ve completed less than all the requirements, transfer credits are evaluated on a class-by-class basis.

McMaster said University administration will “dig into” the data and survey students who are transferring to learn more.

The high percentage of transfers in Minnesota was surprising, he said, but not unpleasantly because the rate indicates students are being successful, even if it’s at other schools.

“Ideally, we want students to finish where they started,” he said, “but we’re very happy to see that they finished elsewhere — somewhere, at least — and I think Minnesota ought to be pleased that this rate was so high here.”

Traditionally, schools focus on graduation rates that only include students who start and complete their degrees at the same school, said Afet Dundar, associate director of the research center at National Student Clearinghouse, the organization that performed the study along with with a group from Indiana University.

But she said many students complete their degrees outside of their starting institution, and research should reflect that.

The report released last month is the first to include transfer students in graduation-rate calculations, she said.

McMaster said schools don’t usually report graduation rates that include transfer students because it’s a federal standard which artificially depresses graduation rates.

Transfer students

Students might transfer for different reasons.

Graphic design student Jeff Thorstad said he transferred from the University because it would have taken him six years to graduate from the graphic design program.

He said many Minnesota residents are used to small towns, and large metropolitan universities can be intimidating, which could contribute to the higher transfer rate in Minnesota.

Junior Jordyn Lehmann said she went to different schools before coming to the University in order to get her general courses out of the way. She said she wanted to come to the University because it was closer to home, too.

She’s not surprised more students are transferring because high school students might not make the best initial college choice.

“You don’t know what you want to do when you’re that age,” she said.