MnSCU provides majority of U transfer students

Some students see community colleges as an affordable place to start attending school.

Taryn Wobbema

The University of Minnesota relies heavily on the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system for transfer students, which make up about a third of the undergraduate student body. Of the 2,058 new transfer students this fall, most come from MnSCU, particularly Normandale Community College in Bloomington, according to a report that will go before the Board of Regents Thursday. While a clear trend cannot be seen from University data spanning from 2003 to 2009, the newest enrollment numbers show a 665 transfer student increase from the previous year. Rick Smith, dean of enrollment at Normandale, said the college transfers about 1,000 students to the University each year, based on data from the past three years. Carmen Shoquist, spokeswoman for North Hennepin Community College, a MnSCU college located in Brooklyn Park, said about 10 percent to 12 percent of students who transfer out of the college relocate to the University of Minnesota. She said this does not necessarily reflect an increase âÄî transfer numbers have remained fairly steady over the years. Smith said Normandale adopted a transfer-friendly curriculum in the early 1990s that makes it easy for students to receive credits that will go toward a four-year degree at another school. The program was set in place to unify the transfer process for students in Minnesota. It is designed to adequately prepare students intending to put their education at Normandale toward a BachelorâÄôs degree. Smith said he thinks the primary reason students opt to begin at a community college stems from the need to save money. He said students can preserve the ability to graduate from whatever school they wish while saving money on the first two years of their education. Minnesota residents are charged $140.87 per credit at Normandale. Smith said the total typically comes to more than $5,000 for a year. Minnesota residents attending the University will pay $11,552 this year. Communications senior Sonia Ostlund attended Normandale for five semesters, transferring to the University last spring. She will not be paying off any debt from those first two and a half years of her education because she could afford the monthly tuition payments. âÄúI started [at Normandale] because I didnâÄôt know what I wanted to go to school for yet,âÄù said Ostlund, who enrolled at Normandale after she graduated high school. She said studying at Normandale was less expensive and allowed her to stay at home and keep her job. Ostlund plans to graduate after the fall 2010 semester. Besides the general transfer program, Smith said most Normandale transfers come out of health sciences and business programs. Craig Miller, a Normandale professor in the department of business, management and marketing, often encounters students planning to transfer to a four-year business school. As a 1979 graduate of the UniversityâÄôs Carlson School of Management, Miller uses his experience to help direct students toward Carlson. Miller said he doesnâÄôt just recommend Carlson because he had a good experience, receiving both his BachelorâÄôs and his MBA from the college, but also because it is the best in the area. Of the 20 or so students Miller instructs to apply to the UniversityâÄôs business school each semester, he said about 80 percent are accepted. Mindy Deardurff, director of recruitment for Carlson, said the college has about 150 spots for transfer students every year, but receive about 1,250 applications. About 25 percent of those slots are filled by students from local community colleges, she said. Though the reliance of the University on transfers from local community colleges does not follow a trend, community colleges in Minnesota and across the nation have been experiencing growth. Data released by the Pew Research Center in October shows community college enrollment has sharply increased recently, conforming to a general positive trend spanning several decades. According to the report, 11.8 percent âÄî or 3.4 million âÄî of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in community colleges in October 2008. Enrollment increased from 10.9 percent in 2007. Data from Normandale and North Hennepin follow this trend. Smith and Shoquist reported an 8 percent growth in enrollment this year. Shoquist said it was the same last year. Smith said the rate is up from an average 3 percent to 5 percent increase in recent years. The growth also correlates with a recent announcement from President Barack Obama, detailing a push for more community college graduates over the next 10 years. The president wants to put $12 billion toward graduating 5 million more people by 2020.