A cap on the number of transfer students admitted to the University of Minnesota starting in fall 2012 will make it more difficult for prospective students who start at two-year colleges.
For some of the more than 3,000 students who transfer to the University each year, starting college elsewhere was about saving money while fulfilling general credits.
For Travis Peterson, transferring to the University was a second chance at success.
When he wasn’t accepted to the University after he graduated high school, Peterson went to work chipping away credits on his architecture degree at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
“It gives a lot of people a shot to get in there and make a difference for themselves,” Peterson said.
But starting in fall 2012, admittance to the University will be a lot harder for the roughly 3,100 students who transfer here each year.
Starting then, the University will decrease its admitted transfer students by about 10 percent, or 300 students, to 2,800 over a four-year period.
Nearly half of those students are from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, so students like Peterson will have an even more difficult time getting in.
At a time when more students are choosing to attend community college for a variety of reasons, including financial constraints, the University’s new policy is “disappointing,” said MnSCU spokeswoman Melinda Voss.
She said graduation rates from MnSCU’s two-year colleges are up and many of those students want to continue on at the University.
This is not the first time the University has been criticized for limiting access.
The University received backlash as recently as 2005 when it closed its General College — a gateway for students entering the University who wouldn’t ordinarily be admitted because they didn’t meet academic standards.
Critics said its closure would decrease diversity and accessibility for students of color, first-generation college students, low-income students and others.
The new transfer policy was made to institute “stability” within the number of transfers, said Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Robert McMaster.
He said with a limited capacity, increased student retention and an increase in the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics students at the University, the fluctuation in the number of transfer students needed to be corrected.
The University’s plan would create a 2 to 1 ratio — about 33 percent — of transfer students to freshmen. That’s still high compared to other institutions, McMaster said.
According to data prepared by University Relations, only 17 percent of new students at the University of Wisconsin and Michigan State are transfers.
He said the transfer student decrease is a “tiny little piece” to improving the transfer student experience. He said his office has put in a request for a transfer coordinator to work with colleges on things like curriculum and housing issues.
But an estimated 140 potential transfers from MnSCU system could be affected under a new plan by the University.
As a flagship university, the University has a commitment to access for Minnesotans. McMaster said Minnesota students would be prioritized in order to maintain the community college and MnSCU pipelines, which he said are critical.
About half of Normandale Community College’s students express interest in transferring to the University at orientation, said interim director of advising and counseling Robb Lowe.
Normandale has seen increased enrollment since the recession, with about 2,000 more students enrolled in 2010-11 than five years ago.
He said reasons for students attending a community college vary from a lower cost to filling general requirements to using it as a transition from high school to a four-year university.
Vitaliy Rezekulov, who attended Normandale for two years before he transferred to the University in fall 2008, said he always intended to transfer from a community college.
He said going to a community college was economically smart, and he saved a lot by going there first.
“Whether you go to Normandale or the University of Minnesota, those first general classes are going to be the same type of stuff,” Rezekulov said. “It’s not going to be easier or harder whether you go there or there.”
While the cost at Normandale is about $182 per credit, tuition for undergraduate students at the University costs about $450 per credit for Minnesota residents and $640 for nonresidents, according to One Stop Student Services.
Lowe said counselors will have to stress how competitive it is to be accepted at the University, as well as encourage them to have alternative plans.
“I don’t think it will discourage them from wanting to go to the [University of Minnesota], I think the reality obviously will be that it’s harder to go there,” Lowe said.
Carmen Shields, spokeswoman for North Hennepin Community College, said from 2006 to 2008, about 10 to 12 percent of its transferring students went to the University.
She said the college would highly recommend students enter in the Minnesota Cooperative Admissions Program, which guarantees transfer admissions to the University if students meet requirements like an associate’s degree or completion of the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum.
Shields said the attraction for many to a community college is the cost savings before transferring to a four-year university.
She said this decision could defer students from even entering college if they perceive access to the University as cut off.
“That could become a barrier for them,” Shields said.
Emily Wells always intended to go to a four-year university, but she ended up taking a couple classes at a community college to get a few credits out of the way.
While Wells was accepted to the University after high school, she chose to go to Western Washington University for her first semester of college in fall 2010. When she returned to Minnesota, she took classes at Normandale Community College.
Though many of her friends also went to a community college before attending a four-year university, she said they lied about where they were going.
“I didn’t particularly like telling people I was going to a community college,” Wells, who will transfer to the University in spring 2012, said. “I definitely think there’s a stigma that people assume you’re not intelligent enough to be in a four-year university.”