One-size-doesn't-fit-all : differentiated engagement pathways for transfer student success
Transfer students are an increasing sub-population of college and university students. However, transfer students, on average, drop out before completing their degrees at higher rates than FTIC freshman, with these trends reflected both nationally and across universities comprising the University of North Carolina System. High-transfer, four-year institutions strive to understand the indicators of transfer student adjustment, retention, and success to inform policies and services to support these students to succeed in their academic goals. As the number of adults needing to complete or continue their education increases, we must develop a deeper understanding of the factors that contribute to transfer student retention and success. Which engagement activities should be promoted as critical pathways for success for this student population? This study, a continuation of previous research conducted by the authors, investigates undergraduate students who matriculated in summer/fall of 2012 through summer/fall of 2020 and focuses on which library, co-curricular, extracurricular, pre-entry (high school GPA, number of incoming credits, Pell grant eligibility), and demographic factors (under-represented minority status) contribute to transfer versus first-time freshman student retention and success at a large, public, research university in the southeast with a high transfer student population. In this study, the authors sought to develop a deeper understanding of which engagement factors increase odds for success for transfer students who are 1st generation or not with varying numbers of credits coming from all types of institutions both in-state and out-of-state. Findings from the study reveal the role of library and other academic support and extracurricular engagements in transfer student success and help institutions understand what engagements they should emphasize with incoming transfer students. This study analyzes transfer versus First Time in College (FTIC) freshmen at UNC Charlotte, an urban research institution with the Carnegie Classification Doctoral Universities: Higher Research Activity and an enrollment of 30,448 (24,116 undergraduates). Incoming classes are 62 percent new freshmen (4,256) and 38 percent transfers (2,605), which means it is a higher transfer student institution. The university emphasizes student participation in research with faculty and in internships in the Charlotte community. According to the most recent statistics for UNC Charlotte transfer students (fall 2020), 64.4% of transfers came from the NC Community College system, 12.9% transferred from one UNC-to-UNC system university to another, 5.8% transferred from a NC private institution to one of the 16 UNC System universities, and 16.9% transferred from out-of-state.