The University of Illinois System is fortunate to be a part of a state that historically has placed a great emphasis on transfer student success. With a total of 12 public four-year institutions, 48 community colleges, and more than 60 non-profit four-year institutions, the state of Illinois is a national leader in bachelor’s degree completion rates among community college students who transfer to four-year institutions. This can be attributed in large part to a statewide general education course articulation mandate (Illinois Articulation Initiative) alongside a statewide initiative designed to facilitate transfer within Illinois using the nationally available tool, Transferology.
Yet, the work does not stop at the state level. As a system, the University of Illinois is committed to our transfer student population – from early transfer planning to graduation and beyond. With three diverse universities that comprise the state’s land-grant institution located in Urbana-Champaign, the state’s second public Research 1 university located in Chicago, and a smaller comprehensive university located in the state’s capital of Springfield, the system is home to more than half of all undergraduate students enrolled in a public university in the state. Our current student body includes transfer students from all 48 Illinois community colleges and almost a third of our undergraduate degrees handed out at our May 2022 graduation ceremonies were to former transfer students.
The University of Illinois System is a light touch system, and its three universities operate their recruiting and admissions strategies based on their own strategic planning and enrollment goals. The robust cooperative, collegial, and collaborative state-wide environment – necessary for effective transfer relationships – has inspired the system to develop a more active transfer portfolio.
The system houses and supplements the state grant to provide Transferology, an online transfer advising tool. This follows best practices to make clear, current, and transparent information available to students about how their coursework will transfer. The MyCreditsTransfer project also provides support to the 85 participating Illinois institutions and their advisors.
Salute to Illinois Scholars event
Salute to Illinois Scholars (SIS) is a collaborative student recruitment and recognition event hosted by Illinois’ 12 public universities, led by the University of Illinois System. This event was established as a statewide effort to help reduce outmigration of Illinois’ high school and transfer students. A full third of the attendees from last year’s SIS event were potential transfer students. To help ensure our students know how much we value them, each public university commits to admission application fee waivers for all students registered to attend.
The Illinois Transfer Symposium
This annual event is designed to bring together representatives from community colleges, their local four-year public university partners, and the University of Illinois System’s three universities. The symposium is intentionally hosted by a community college so that administrators, admissions staff, academic advisors, and faculty can come together to learn more about the higher education pipeline available to students who begin college at two-year institutions. The event kicks off with a panel of students – both those currently enrolled at a community college and those who have already transferred – to share their experiences with the process.
Credits at Completion
The system has worked diligently both internally and externally to maximize the number of applicable credits a transfer student brings into our university. A recent finding is that students who transferred into the University of Illinois System earned an average three additional credit hours at the time of completion in comparison to the students who started as first-time freshmen within the system. While this is certainly positive news, especially when the most recent analysis by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that students who transfer lose 43 percent of the credits they’ve already earned. A recent Transcript Study performed by our system documents that on average, 87 percent of credit earned is both transferable and applicable to degree requirements for our transfer students. The work continues to limit any excess credits at completion.
The U of I System Transfer Guarantee
Another critical component of the system’s transfer initiatives is enhancing relationships with our community college partners across the state and to develop pathways that allow for early transfer planning. Educating more than half of all students enrolled in a public university in our state, it’s imperative that we critically examine how to provide equitable, accessible opportunities to all groups – including those in the transfer pipeline using a student-centered approach.
Our most recently launched initiative – The U of I System Transfer Guarantee – now offers guaranteed transfer admission into any of the University of Illinois locations to transfer applicants who meet the following requirements –
- Enrolled only at an Illinois community college after graduating from an Illinois high school
- Earned a minimum of 36 graded, transferable semester hours at the time of application to the university
- Attained a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in all transferable coursework completed at the time of application to the university
- Satisfied the university’s English language proficiency requirement
With The U of I System Transfer Guarantee, students are provided flexibility.
- Flexibility to start their higher education journeys at a community college, likely close to home
- Flexibility to cut costs
- Flexibility to explore their academic interests before enrolling in a baccalaureate program at one of our universities
- Flexibility to choose from over 550 undergraduate programs offered by our universities
- Flexibility to earn a bachelor’s degree from one of our three unique institutions – one that is a top public research university in the U.S., another that is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse college campuses nationwide, or another that is continuously ranked the top public regional university in Illinois
Developing transfer pathways for this population is only one piece of the very complex puzzle. As we consider student-centric approaches to meet the needs of shifting demographics for our college-going students, what IS best for the student? It certainly isn’t a ‘one size fits all approach.’ Research shows us that most students who start at a community college do not pursue a lockstep, 2+2 pattern. The question regarding how to best streamline processes while ensuring that it’s customizable to the students’ needs – especially when their trajectory changes due to changes in major, life events, or other – is not a simple one.
The University of Illinois System is committed to the state’s transfer environment. As the largest system in the state, we are aware that we have an extraordinary reach, positively impacting the lives of our students, but also in influencing and leading the broader higher education community.