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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education
ccarney@indiana.edu
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Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2008

New reports indicate consistency, orientation have benefits for Ivy Tech students

Studies look at transfers to 4-year public institutions, follow pilot orientation on one Ivy Tech campus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 29, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two new policy briefs from the Indiana Project on Academic Success (IPAS) find students who transfer from Ivy Tech Community College to public 4-year institutions in Indiana are more likely to do so within their first three years of study than if they carry studies further, and find evidence that orientation is helpful for new Ivy Tech students.

IPAS has collaborated with higher education institutions around the state to examine data and identify and research challenges to college students' success, funded by a grant from the Lumina Foundation for Education that comes to an end on July 1. During the grant period IPAS worked with campuses to identify possible interventions and then analyzed the success of those actions. It also undertook some state-level policy analyses of student success, transfer and persistence.

Don Hossler

Don Hossler

The report, titled "Characteristics and Destinations of Students Who Transfer Across Indiana's Public Colleges and Universities," followed a cohort of 7,755 first-time, first-year students who enrolled in fall 2000. Following the cohort's progress through the 2005-2006 academic year, the researchers found a small percentage transferred to 4-year public institutions, 397 students.

"Of a relatively small number of students who actually transfer from Ivy Tech to 4-year campuses, it appears there's this magic window," said Don Hossler, director of IPAS and professor of educational leadership and policy studies in the IU School of Education. "Students are most likely to transfer during the first three years, then the odds of transfer are going to go down significantly."

The study took into account only transfers to public institutions, so Hossler said the total number of transfer students studied is certainly smaller than the complete number of students who transferred.

A second policy brief examined how well an orientation program worked for new students on the Ivy Tech Richmond campus. The report, titled "ITCCI Richmond's Pilot Orientation Program: Effects on Student Persistence," found modest success for the new program, something Hossler said is significant. He said that many community colleges and some other institutions are reluctant to hold mandatory orientation, often because they fear losing some students who may enroll late or last-minute. Hossler said the study found no evidence of a decline in first-year student enrollment at Ivy Tech Richmond, and the program had other positive outcomes.

"We got a lot of positive feedback from faculty we talked to after having orientation," Hossler said. The faculty members said students seemed better able to negotiate the campus and find campus resources. "It's not a bad secondary outcome to have the faculty feel like 'we're interacting with students who seem to know more about why they're here.'"

In the case of student orientation, Hossler said, the institution can influence student behavior to positively affect persistence by contacting students.

"They can reach out to students who haven't registered for the coming semester," Hossler said, suggesting an e-mail reminding a student how close he or she is to a degree and when certain required classes will be offered could help. "There are things that institutions can do to try to encourage students to try to stay enrolled and educate them about the value of staying enrolled."

Staying consistently enrolled, Hossler said, is the most important thing a student can do. The study found that students who transferred after two years of study earned credits more consistently year to year than any other group. The number of credits earned for those who transferred after years three, four and five all declined. Students who did not transfer earned an average of 37 credits by 2005, compared to 95 for those who transferred after two years at Ivy Tech. Reflecting previous research in this area, students who completed degrees completed nearly 20 credits in their first year and increased their credits in the second year.

"If you're a student at Ivy Tech and have been going four or five years, it doesn't mean that you're not going to transfer," Hossler said. "But it does mean the longer you stay enrolled and don't transfer, the less likely you are to transfer." He added that the reason transfers are more likely after three years is that those students have maintained consistent enrollment. "Because if you've been taking classes every semester, you're much more likely to have accumulated enough credit hours to transfer," Hossler said.

MEDIA OUTLETS: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at http://site.educ.indiana.edu/news/tabid/5663/Default.aspx. Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."

Hossler says a specific time period shows up as the most likely for a transfer for Ivy Tech students:

"That of a relatively small number of students who actually transfer from Ivy Tech to 4-year campuses, it appears that there's this magic window, that students are most likely to transfer during the first three years, then the odds of transfer are going to go down significantly."

Hossler says the study shows that Ivy Tech students who intend to transfer to a four-year institution are more likely to do so earlier rather than later:

"If you're a student at Ivy Tech and have been going four or five years, it doesn't mean that you're not going to transfer, but it does mean the longer you stay enrolled and don't transfer, the less likely you are. But there's another behavioral element to that that I think explains much of that -- the students who are most likely to transfer are students who remain enrolled consistently over time, they're taking classes every semester. And that's probably what's really driving that transferring during the first three years, because if you've been taking classes every semester, you're much more likely to have accumulated enough credit hours to transfer."

Getting students to the point where they can transfer means keeping them working towards an associate degree, which Hossler says schools can encourage:

"And there are ways that institutions can influence that. They can reach out to students who haven't registered for this coming semester, they can go through their own academic records and send e-mails or letters out to students saying, 'We notice that you haven't registered yet, we wanted you to know that you only need seven more classes to finish the degree, and two of those are going to be offered next semester at the following times.' There are things that institutions can do to try to encourage students to try to stay enrolled, to try to educate them about the value of staying enrolled."

Hossler says the orientation at Ivy Tech-Richmond helped students and instructors both:

"We got a lot of positive feedback from faculty we talked to after having orientation. 'Gee, our students seem to know their way around our campus better. They seem to know how to find the resources. They seem to know a little bit more about what it means to be a college student.' And so as long as -- even if the results were only modest -- as long as they weren't negative, it's not a bad secondary outcome to have the faculty feel like 'we're interacting with students who seem more like college students, who seem to know more about why they're here.'"