University finds new ways to attract transfer students

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
September 10, 2009

Indiana State University officials believe the school's multi-faceted approach to making transfer students feel welcome is what helped the school draw in its largest number of transfer students in ten years.

According to Fall 2009 enrollment figures, 763 students transferred to ISU to begin their semesters at the school - that's 175 more transfers than at the start of the 2008 school year. Of those, 30 percent, or 230 students, transferred from Ivy Tech Community College.

Prior to the Fall 2009 semester, ISU began targeting potential transfer students by placing billboard advertisements in close proximity of the Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Bloomington, Lafayette and Evansville Ivy Tech campuses.

But John Beacon, ISU's vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications, believes it's the university-wide effort to extend a personal touch that has primarily appealed to transfer students. ISU in January took a giant step toward showing its support of the Ivy Tech two-year degree program when a full-time transfer coordinator was assigned to work on the Ivy Tech Wabash Valley campus. ISU's interest in transfer students was also reinforced through scholarships that discounted their campus housing fees and book fees, and awarded them laptop computers.

All of these efforts serve Beacon's overarching goal to make students feel as though they are valued.

"Many times, transfer students are made to feel as though they are second-class citizens because we don't pay enough attention to them," Beacon said. "The key to building good relationships with community colleges is to avoid taking students away from those institutions too early, and to make sure students earn those associate's degrees with credits that will transfer before they move on to us."

That strategy was precisely what Marshall, Ill. resident Kelly Siverly says led her to ISU.

Siverly graduated from high school in May 2007 uncertain about where to attend college. She was drawn to Eastern Illinois University because it was in close proximity to her home, she said, but she was equally interested in ISU because her mother was an alumna.

Siverly enrolled at Ivy Tech, primarily to complete her general education requirements, while she decided which school to attend and which field of study interested her most. While at Ivy Tech, the attention and support Siverly received from ISU transfer coordinator Linda Clark-Laffoon helped Siverly make the decision to become a Sycamore.

"She gave me the resources I needed and put me in contact with the people I needed to talk to," Siverly said.

Clark-Laffoon helped make Siverly aware of application deadlines, advised her about what credits would transfer, and served as a liaison between Siverly and ISU.

"Having someone there at Ivy Tech who could help me figure out what I needed to do to get into ISU was a huge help," Siverly said.

Clark-Laffoon says she sees many students like Siverly who need a friendly face to help them navigate through the paperwork and the obstacles of academic advising and financial aid. Her presence on the Ivy Tech Wabash Valley campus allows her to directly recruit students, but more importantly, to develop relationships with them.

"This situation is really unique," Clark-Laffoon said. "They see my face. I get to know them ... It really makes a big difference."

As the university moves forward with its efforts to increase enrollment, Beacon says he'll continue to analyze what and how the university does what it does to attract students.

One of this year's scholarships that wasn't as successful as others offered transfer students a double-sized dorm room for the price of a single.

"That just didn't work here, so we will not be pursuing it further," Beacon said.

But the 40 laptop scholarships and the 50 scholarships worth $500 to offset the costs of books and fees didn't reach far enough, Assistant Director of Admissions Sarah Wurtz said.

"These new initiatives helped in ways that students weren't expecting," she said, "and they were very appealing."

As a result, future transfer students are likely to have more of those types of scholarships made available to them.

Those "scholarships were successful and showed us that a little incentive goes a long way," Beacon said. "These were not huge awards, but I don't think they need to be."

Writer: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or rachel.mcclelland@indstate.edu