Transfer students deal with registration woes

Nina Petersen-Perlman

Jason Lahr doesn’t know whether he’s a sophomore or a junior.

The sociology student transferred to the University in January from Normandale Community College in Bloomington, but because many of his credits didn’t follow him, he is uncertain of something as basic as his year.

Like many transfer students, Lahr said he thinks he has been lost in a bureaucratic shuffle at the University.

The number of transfer students ‘ and their problems ‘ is expected to increase with the closure of the General College.

State community colleges will assume the role the General College now plays in preparing students for a four-year degree at the University.

This academic year, 32.9 percent of new students were transfer students, according to the Office of Admissions.

Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for Student Affairs, said he recognizes the University needs to better serve transfer students’ needs.

“We know they’re somewhat less satisfied at graduation,” Rinehart said. “The typical nontransfer student rated their University experience 5.1 on a 6-point scale, and transfers had 4.9.”

Many of the difficulties transfer students face stem from the fact that they enter the University with varying levels of experience, which makes it hard to create an orientation experience that benefits them all, said Paula Brugge, who runs the Transfer and International Admissions Welcome Center.

“It’s a huge range of students we’re trying to fit in,” Brugge said. “It’s like trying to take lots of different-shaped blocks and put them in a round hole.”

Transfer students operate on a different admissions schedule than first-year students, often applying to the University and receiving their acceptance letters months after their first-year counterparts, Brugge said.

Registration

Laura Coffin Koch, who helped lead a transfer task force, said there was a lot of concern on the part of transfer students about the availability of courses when they register.

“They’re the last students to register and sometimes courses they need or want are not available,” Coffin Koch said.

To register for classes, transfer students must attend an orientation session in August for fall semester or January for spring semester. Lahr said registering so late before spring semester made the whole situation more hectic.

“As if it’s not stressful enough transferring, you need to find your classes and books in less than a week,” Lahr said.

He and other transfer students said they wished they could have registered earlier, at least before freshmen.

Beth Lingren, director of orientation and first-year programs, said transfer students still are finishing coursework at their current schools and deciding where to go next while first-year students already are registering.

“The nature of the behavior of transfer students is to come later in the orientation process,” Lingren said. “If we offered it earlier, could we even get them to come?”

Ahmed Daoud, a computer engineering and electrical engineering junior who transferred to the University this fall, said it might hurt more students than it helped to have an earlier registration date.

“It’d be a double-edged sword to have that put in place,” Daoud said. “I’m OK with the late registration because it allows transfer students more options.”

Brugge said most transfer students who come in with the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (which gives credit for all lower-division general courses) completed don’t have the trouble getting classes a student with less credits would, because they aren’t competing with first-years for the same classes.

Advising

Lahr said he had “maybe” five minutes with an adviser during his orientation, and his adviser told him he needed classes he already had received credit for at Normandale.

“They never updated my APAS (academic progress audit system) report,” Lahr said. “You have to have an updated academic report so you’re not wasting time and money taking classes you don’t need.”

Brugge said that could boil down to student misinformation or administrative overload.

“It takes time for the grades to be entered and for the transcript to be sent to our office,” Brugge said. “If the student has forgotten to or not known they had to apply to receive the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, it won’t be noted on the transcript.”

Daoud said there probably was less information given because they assume transfer students have heard it all before.

“The advising isn’t as intricate or careful as it is for incoming freshmen,” Daoud said. “It’s probably due to the fact we’ve already been in the higher-education system.”

Amy Rosenthal, a transfer adviser for the College of Liberal Arts, said they only recently started giving individual attention to students during orientation.

“I think, generally speaking, most of the advisers in the communities are very well-schooled on coursework that comes in and what could overlap between courses you’ve taken elsewhere,” Rosenthal said.