Past research has found that of all college students, about 38% will transfer colleges in the course of their academic career. The reasons for transferring colleges are diverse, from discontent with the current institution to continuing education goals at a four-year-institution. Transfers face different challenges than the average student, including the process of processing credits, graduating on-time, and adjusting to the new campus community.
The University of California has sought to include transfer students since 1960 when the Master Plan for Higher Education required UC campuses to accept a ratio of one transfer for every 2 freshman. The current ratio as of the 2017-2018 academic year for the entirety of the UC system, was 2.1:1, this meaning that for every 1 transfer student accepted to a UC, a little over 2 freshman students were accepted. On individual campuses, the acceptance ratios vary from 1.5 to 11.9 freshman for every transfer student. UC Merced, which had the highest freshman to transfer ratio of 11.9:1, is currently exempt from following this ratio due to the institution’s newness and need to grow.
As part of a nationwide effort to include more transfers on college campuses, several UC campuses have made their own efforts to add more transfer students on their campuses. As a result, colleges and universities are now striving to create programs to help transfers overcome common challenges to improve graduation rates.
UC Merced, even as the newest of the UCs, contains its own growing transfer community. In 2018, 97% of these new students come from California community colleges, the highest percentage among any of University of California campus, demonstrating Merced’s continued commitment to serving the state of California.
With this growing community, there also comes different challenges specific to the population. One of UC Merced’s central programs to assist transfer is the TRV program, short for Transfers, Returning students, and Veterans. Transfers, returning students, and veterans can apply to the program and, by doing so, opt in to a support network structured to address the challenges faced by these populations.
The TRV program began with UC Merced in 2005 with a 5-year grant from the Department of Education. At this point, the program was named DARTS or, Degree Attainment for Returning and Transfer Students and focused on improving the graduation rates of transfers. At the end of this grant, DARTS transitioned into the current TRV program we now have at UC Merced.
The program aims to assist transfers, returners, and veterans in adjusting to a 4-year university. According to TRV coordinator Michelle Greenwood, the TRV program has multiple methods to achieve this goal. One of these methods is to focus on the relationships the individual student has with the university, their friends, their family, and themselves. A focus on relationships helps transfers foster connections to others, ultimately feeling more included in the institution.
To assist in the academic transition, transfer students are also required to take a USTU 10 course. This USTU 10 covers topics relevant to transfer students including research, resources, and more. Beyond the academic requirement, the TRV program requires students to meet regularly with advisors, professors, TRV fellows, and the transfer program coordinator as well as participate in study sessions and social events. These requirements aim to help keep TRV students on track for graduation.
Another key component of the program are the Fellows, student workers who act as peer advisors to program members. They help to plan activities, assist staff, and support transfer students. Many also went through the transfer process and, therefore, are able to understand many of the issues new students are undergoing. As fellow students, they provide a friendly face around campus for students in the program.
Looking towards the future, it can be expected that the number of transfer students will only continue to grow within UC Merced. Programs like TRV will continue to be necessary in ensuring that transfer students are able to fully partake in and contribute to the social and academic life of UCM.
Photo Credit: Transfer, Returning, and Veteran Program.