For many colleges transfers enrollment is desirable but elusive. For other colleges, transfers are expensive, complicated, and offered the leftover resources. However, the impending demographic cliff will force the hand of many enrollment leaders to make some priority decisions. Among those decisions will be, being intentional about attracting non-traditional students to the college, how does my college actually serve the needs of transfers, and what can be done to retain those students enrolled through graduation. In this Enrollment Edge episode, Jay will talk to David Cook, Founder of DegreeSight, a company dedicated to providing transfer focused support that helps colleges and universities provide services to enroll, retain, and graduate more transfer students. Jay will dive into current transfer strategies with David and look into future trends that enrollment leaders will have to embrace if they want be dedicated to this underserved and often overlooked student group.
[00:00:00] Jay Fedje: Welcome to the Enrollment Edge Podcast for college enrollment and marketing leaders. I'm your host Jay Fedje, Enrollment Edge is sponsored by enrollmentFUEL, a trusted full service student search and marketing partner to colleges and universities across the country. If you'd like to learn more about enrollment tool services, or you have questions about today's episode, we've included a link to our website in the show notes. You can also email us at email@example.com. We'd love to hear what you think. If you can, help us by subscribing to our podcast, sharing it with your friends and leaving a five star review on Apple podcasts. For Many colleges, transfer enrollment is desirable but elusive. For other colleges transfers are expensive, complicated and are often provided with leftover resources. However, the impending demographic cliff will force the hand of many enrollment leaders to make some priority decisions. Among those decisions will be being intentional about attracting non-traditional students to their college, how colleges actually serve the needs of transfers, and what can be done to retain transfer students all the way through to graduation. In this enrollment edge episode, I talked to David Cook, founder of DegreeSight, a company dedicated to providing transfer focus support that helps colleges and universities enroll, retain and graduate more transfer students. We'll dive into current transfer strategies and look into the future trends that enrollment leaders will need to embrace if they want to attract this underserved and often overlooked student group. Today, I am welcoming David Cook to the Enrollment Edge and we're excited to have you on David, we're going to talk a little bit about so many different things. You and I have a tendency to do that. So first, welcome to the Enrollment Edge. David, glad to have you here.
[00:01:50] David Cook: Jay. It's an absolute honor to be here and I'm happy to be taking part.
[00:01:55] Jay Fedje: So just a little bit of context, you and I met at a conference, we sat at tables next to each other and found a like minded conversation about a great many things. There was a conversation that lasted the better part of two days. I think that we talked and talked and talked, but really we focused a lot of our attention in our conversations around, I hate to say it but the plight or the challenges of transfers so the topic today the headline of this particular episode for the EDGE is successfully recruiting and supporting transfer students and you and I had I think a great back and forth and it dawned on me very quickly that this is going to be a podcast This had to be one of our episodes that we had to circle back around to and now we finally come back around to it a few weeks later and, you know, I'm gonna let you jump in here introduce yourself and what you do and kind of how this connects with this idea of transfers, I'm going to set the stage for what we talked about. So having been in enrollment for 30 years, there have been a number of common misconceptions or common beliefs about transfers, they've been labeled as something and so let me be kind of go through this and we're gonna we're gonna unpack a number of these things. So some of those labels are expensive, it's an expensive student because they're entering the academic part of our program or four year program at some of the most expensive levels. They are hard to find, they're elusive. There's not the same kind of entry point or threshold as a first time freshmen. So they're harder to find. They don't retain as well and we're going to talk more about that being really a challenge that you've jumped into a pain point that your company has focused a lot of attention on retention. They're often seen as filling out the incoming class, the first time freshmen the first time students get the best or the most recruited, and then transfers kind of backfill what we have left. Later on in life, and we can talk more about this too, they don't always give back, donate as much to their alma mater as freshmen that were in for the whole entire experience, the enrollment process in this is probably the hallmark theme of what you're tackling with DegreeSight and that is, the enrollment process is more cumbersome, complicated, it really doesn't have to be we'll talk about this quite a bit more as well. They tend to be enrolled in classes and degree focused, but with less experience. So it's not necessarily as much about the experience that the colleges are trying to develop that whole kind of whole person experience. But they're really focused, again, labeling, they're focused on the degree of getting done, how can I get done quickly, how can I get done as inexpensive as possible and lastly, they don't retain nearly as well, because the school maybe is not putting as much resource into it. They're not using the same techniques to retain students from year to year with a transfer student, as maybe they do with freshmen. So I'm going to start there and say those are kind of the presumptions those are the labels that we give to transfers, you have a particular history with transfers that drove you into this, having been doing this now 14 some odd years being in and around the student solutions design. Talk a little bit about first of all, what drove you into the space that you're in now and in the heart, you have the empathy, the vision you have for helping schools recruit and retain and support transfers.
[00:06:30] David Cook: Absolutely. Thank you, Jay and so I want to kind of key on something here, there's recruit there's retain and there's really support and if you support students, you'll recruit them and retain them and that's the core of all of it, it's how do you find the operational efficiency, the capability and the cultural emphasis to support students through that journey, which is the most critical time of their lives. You know, students today are making the most expensive decision of their adult lives, not just up to that point, but many times. You can spend $120,000 $150,000 $200,000, in loans upfront on a college degree, while also comparing that against the opportunity cost of just doing a boot camp, and immediately getting a job or going into a trade and students and families are taking that consideration into account today. I just love that you kind of started off with success, supporting being a piece of that as well. My background, the reason we started this company was, as you said, 14 years ago, I was at Baylor University, my alma mater and I was in a course with a wonderful professor and she asked us what one process would you solve with technology and the one thing that stood out to me the most was as a student, navigating college was very tough and I gotta say, it's something that even today, there's obviously great strides being made. But if the systems and the technologies don't allow a student to very quickly see how many credits they have, how many credits are remaining, where am I going to go next? What is the job I'm gonna get? There's so much ambiguity and stress that a student has to walk through, right? It makes it a challenge for them to be successful. So if we talk about support, and success, you can talk about that from either retention, you can talk about that from recruitment, but it's all the same thing. How do you support a student with transparency, so they can feel informed, so they can feel empowered, so they can take ownership of it, and move forward towards the next phase of their life? Again, they're investing so much with that decision of joining the institution and investing that time and the finances. They know they want to be somewhere on the end of it, how do you get them there? So to try and wrap all that into a nutshell, at the end of that presentation, I shared with Baylor a way where institutions could take the general data where a student is in their pathway to graduation, and make this decision very clear for them of what do I need to do next, and pull the data out of that, that would then present to the institution? What do we need to do from a staffing standpoint, from a facility standpoint, to prepare for the next step in their journey, and we started building out this platform, you know, over a decade ago, to support institutions in that and over the past about two years, we realized what we've been building is great for internal administration support, but there's a component there that was so under served. We had to back up a little bit and say, okay, the start of that journey is just glaringly empty today for students. Okay, start looking into the research of what students are doing today and what is their engagement? And when do they get answers? When do they get transparency? And there are ways you can backfill this. If you are an enrolled student, how do I graduate? I can go meet with my advisor, they can answer the questions pretty quickly, I can set up a meeting now I'm getting texting back and forth, and automated scheduling of appointments. There's a recurring processing culture now that exists when students are meeting more frequently with advisors. But that transfer process and itself has still not been met and so transfer students often don't get their answer until after they enroll, whether their credits apply and how they apply and what that actually means for their graduation and as we started to research and delve more and more into that, we found a number that stuck out and it hit us right in the eye so hard, we couldn't look away. It's that 43% of all credits for transfer students are often lost.
[00:10:45] Jay Fedje: 43% of transfer credits lost meaning what do you mean by that?
[00:10:51] David Cook: There's two different numbers and two different ways of looking at this. One of them is that a two to four year I'm gonna pull these numbers up in front of myself real quick here. On average, students lose roughly 20% of all credits when transferring from a two to four year institution. So that's roughly a semester. So if you take your full associates and you go to your four year, you're gonna lose an entire semester. That's a really painful thought, if we're talking about pathway development, student success and then if you take from a two year to between two four year institutions, so say it's someone's parent gets sick, or gets a new job, and they have to move back home. Students will lose on average 35% of their credits. So there's kind of two ways of looking at this. One is what credits do you lose? Versus then the larger much hairier number, which is how do they apply to your degree. Not just are they lost or falling into general like do you have to retake them? That secondary number is very hard for us to find. Some studies have been done legislatively, it's not required for most institutions to do so. So that number doesn't often get presented. But as we have done research and talk to other vendors and policy advocates, who are in this space, they say the numbers that they see is at least 43% are not actually effectively changing the students outcomes at the next institution. It's complete whitewash.
[00:12:17] Jay Fedje: So you translate that into credits lost versus dollars lost, it really would come out as an equivalent 43% 35% 20% revenue, or cost from the students perspective, lost. We're spending 20% more than they need to 35% more than they need to 43% more than they need to, one of the things you and I talked about, oftentimes, I think, as an enrollment manager, I put transfers into three buckets, I put them into the I didn't make the right decision, and I'm going to jump someplace else, I can understand losing some credits, maybe they didn't plan this, it wasn't the right move first of all, there's another group of kind of continuous transfers, I used to call them nomads, they would go from one school to the next to the next, just trying to find the right fit, or they just didn't know what they were looking for so they kept transferring. But the last group is the group really, I think that you're focusing a lot of your attention on that is those that are planning a transfer. So they're cost cutting to begin with maybe where they don't necessarily know what they want to want to study. So they're going to want to focus on a less expensive credit and so a year or two years in, they have a pile of credits and even those students, you're saying, lose credit hours in transfer because they didn't take the right classes. They weren't advised well, talk more about that particular group. The other groups I think, are much more reactive. But this group, this is a group that's on top of it. This is a student group that is saying, after the second year I get my AA Degree I'm going to go finish my nursing degree, or I've got my AA Degree I'm going to go finish my bachelor's in psychology or counseling or something and they're still losing credits, right?
[00:14:17] David Cook: Well, it can be done. I don't want to say that the most prepared are still in every case going to lose their credits. I have a personal family member, my cousin he's a brilliant man, and he went intentionally through a transfer process to save upwards of $30,000 and also to ensure that his destination final target school would be the large name brand that otherwise he might have struggled to get into his first year and the process that they undergo is more rigorous than it should be to put it quite simply and in every system if you're developing a system and you want participants, by the way, just to warn all the live listeners, I'm an ex software engineer. So I tried very hard to not go in the weeds but forgive me if I do a little bit. So if you're designing any kind of a system, and you know that your participants are going to do something in that system, and you want them to be successful, the number one element you focus on is friction. It's seen today in social media, it's seen in strategies to reduce fake news, it's seen in optimizing with, at home food delivery or grocery pickup at the store. How do we reduce the friction? So if someone does something we think is good and beneficial for them? How do we create friction where we think it's bad for them? And if you think about the process that a transfer student has to do today, even if they're intentional about it, how much friction is there, really, and their ability to identify that pathway and then validate that pathway that they saw is real?
[00:15:53] Jay Fedje: There's a tremendous amount of friction. I think that's exactly I think how I would describe is tension friction complication that I often wrestled with, it doesn't need to be there, we have partners still today that would love to be able to smooth that pathway out, but can't now one of the characteristics of a planned transfer, let's talk about articulation agreements for a moment. They're moving in from a two year or a program that is designed for a transfer to a school, so they know their destination and I would hope that those two institutions have figured out, this is how we don't lose credits. This is how a student gets from point A to point B to point C to D. You know, seamlessly that's what articulations are, you know, articulation agreements are for. However, there are plenty of students that are looking at systems, or they're looking at states, they're saying, you know, I'm going to get this two year degree, I think I'm going to go into business. I've got all these classes lined up. I'm planning as best I can. I may be planning well, I may not be planning well. I think those students tend to be more of the students, you're able to, or there are solutions to be able to support them. So they don't lose that credit.
[00:17:18] David Cook: Yeah, absolutely and there is more to the process, of course, then just articulation agreements and I think that's something that most listeners may need to be aware of, I assume that everyone is already aware of this. But let's just assume that someone out there is not familiar with the difference between articulation agreements and program maps, and how they affect the students' journey. Articulation agreement is typically accepting a course or a series of courses for an individual course and you can say that you have articulation agreements out there and generally expand that data set and to give all the credit to the institutions who are trying to do this, it takes a lot of work to expand a data set and a lot of politicking and relationship development to bring institutions together, Jay, you talked to me about this specifically, as well and I've asked to get those articulations established at a course to course level wherein one course professor says yes, I trust that professor and their content and material, the student will be able to bring it in it is all good. But the problem is sometimes that articulation agreement doesn't really map to the holistic program at the receiving institution and might just map into a generic accounting elective and so then the next step is, well, let's take those articulations build a framework on top of them that shows this program is gonna be fulfilled based on those articulation agreements, which are really the building blocks to individual 1234 might then map into this comprehensive sheet and so what I've seen done well, but I have not seen a system outside of I think what I don't want to over promise here, maybe we need to cut this part. I don't know what we're currently considering building over the coming year. Which is a dynamic program map capability, based on those articulations and so a program map is saying, institution A has this program and these courses and I do see some institutions doing this well today where they'll take a spreadsheet and they'll simply go sit down with the Dean of the other colleges, and say I will accept course A equals your course B and we'll do that program course requirement by program course requirement by program course requirement.
[00:19:23] Jay Fedje: Super labor intensive.
[00:19:24] David Cook: And so error prone because what happens if you affect one program map, but then you have another program degree that might have some similarities across it, 100 plus degrees, you're making decisions on a one by one basis, but not necessarily ensuring that they replicate that they affect every other program that they could and that comes into, I think the larger conversation around articulation management and program maps and what these do to students in an inequity standpoint, and it's a friction, that's all friction. If you were to hand me, this is gonna sound so funny. But here's a good example. Just this past weekend, my water hose coil in the backyard broke, and I'm sitting there thinking great, well, I know that I've already got it bolted on to the house. So it's a specific size, and the threads are just right and it's all set up and I know I've got it right, but it broke and so I got to replace it. Well, the process for me is I can go try and make another decision and find a new one to replace it, in other words, if I don't use my historical data, I'm gonna have a hard time figuring out which one I had before and find a new one. I have that historical data at my fingertips. It's not a decision, you just go in and rebuy. Friction, versus non friction. We'll talk about articulation agreements, and I'll wind it back here to that main concept. If a student comes in one year, and they get their articulation agreements mapped and the Dean gives them exemption approval for this course, because maybe it wasn't in the original rules that we identify now, yes, it actually is a good map. It's not an institution we typically affiliate with, but the course matches it aligns and then the very next year, let's say your registrar switches, which I know there's always a challenge in institutions when that knowledge is lost and another student comes in and has the exact same course, if that wasn't captured in a comprehensive, centralized store, that student might not get credit. So one semester, a student gets credit, the very next semester, the next student doesn't get credit, they did the exact same work. How is that equal and it's, unfortunately, just a part of human nature, if we don't have that data at our fingertips at all times, and it's a challenge, how do you make smart decisions? How do you make the right decisions? How do you hold on to those decisions? So that your institution can grow?
[00:21:50] Jay Fedje: From the very beginning, I really resonate with this concept of friction. I think that would probably be the one word that would describe my history with trying to make transfer processes as smooth as I institutionally could, there was always that friction, but there are a lot of things that are outside of the enrollment managers hands. So for instance, you're talking about transfer credit, Class A, Class B, and the faculty group at the academic department, looking at each of those classes, and then really hand picking the classes and maybe even the methodology of the class, or the school, we don't like classes taught at that school. But this school is fine. It may be a personal thing, and may not be an academic or a reasonable institutional bias, but it's a personal bias. Those faults get in the way of these agreements, these program maps, how does an enrollment manager navigate that space? What services could be provided for that?
[00:23:16] David Cook: Great question and I think the challenge first comes with the institutions comprehensive perspective of why transfer students are important, and are we going to support them talking about individuals and their biases, and why it might not accept an individual course one of the things I've heard very interestingly, from specific institutions, and some are more rigorous than this than others, but just to give one case example is if a course is denied at one specific department, and maybe this is just the department has a predisposition to require that students retake this course. The Provost has the authority and has a single right at every single one of those denials to review it and ensure that this truly should be denied and so sometimes if it is known that there might be a bias, or have you expect that there might be a bias, you can set up those secondary processes and chains of command to ensure students are treated fairly. Does that take extra time? Yes, does it sometimes take politicking, yes you have to smooth the relationships over to ensure that Individual Dean who just said no, or that registrar who just said no, is not offended and so I think it all comes back down to why are transfers important? How many transfer students are there? What do they do for your institution? How do they affect the culture and the shape of your class going forward? And is it good, beneficial, profitable as an institution to make these exemptions for transfer students? Or is it going to hurt the shape of your class in the future, because there's always a sometimes perception, you talked before about them being expensive or loose and elusive, that maybe they don't give back or donate that, as they are in this transnational nature, maybe we don't really want to care for transfer students as much, we just kind of want to pull them in and say, look, you're now part of our system, welcome. Come on in, you're lucky to be here, we're happy to have you get on that path, versus treating them as if they are a customer or client who you want to serve, and take them to the next step in their journey.
[00:25:27] Jay Fedje: I purposefully at the outset, talked about the labeling of transfers, simply because I wanted to set the stage for, I had a number of presidents that really lived by this mantra, that is do not waste a good crisis and what's coming next, for many enrollment managers could only be described as a crisis, it's a situation that they're going to have to deal with, strategically ahead of time, if they're moving in the direction of combating the demographic cliff, of solving that enrollment issue in the upcoming years, if they're doing that, when it hits, they are going to be late to the party and so transfers from, my perspective and from perspective of the number of general managers that I'm talking with now suddenly have become significantly more attractive and in all of those labels of well, it's an expensive program, and that class is expensive, or they're hard to find, or whatever. All of those labels or discounts on that particular group of students suddenly are beginning to mitigate and moderate, because we need the tuition dollars at the school and transfers provide the opportunity to fill classes now I've been at schools where one department doesn't need transfers, because they're full, they've got plenty of students, and other departments that are aggressively going after any student, because they desperately need students in their program. I think this is the situation that schools are going to have to figure out the solution to engage and support and graduate transfers and then they have to operationalize that in their system, or they are going to miss a gigantic opportunity to help mitigate that demographic cliff that's coming.
[00:27:52] David Cook: I actually took a note to myself this morning, as I was reviewing and preparing for this and one of the things I wrote down was, how COVID and this lockdown experience and going remote actually helped us realign and focus on the student experience it wasn't necessarily that we I think as institutions as providers, even on the vendor side, all thought great, we're having to go remote, we're having to make changes, we want to make sure that students are gonna graduate. No, we really wanted to make sure first and foremost that we weren't going to lose all of them to be transparent to one another and honest with one another, but ensuring that you're not going to lose them you're making them more successful and it's this wonderful cataclysmic cauldron that forced a change on all of us that's probably overdue.
[00:28:42] Jay Fedje: I think that's the not wasting a good crisis moment. When we look at a rejuvenated sense of operationalizing and driving resources towards transfers that oftentimes for many schools haven't been there. They don't get the same experiential classing where the lead in, they don't get the same introductions orientation programs that a lot of freshmen do and suddenly, retention is a paramount challenge that we have to solve and suddenly, the freshman retention rate is important and the transfer retention rate has got to be equally important. I think honestly, when we look back at the challenge, you're talking about friction, I love that by the way, but when we talk about the friction, it starts before the student even gets there. The idea of them moving into a program, not knowing how long it's going to take them, not knowing how much it's going to cost, not knowing what transfer credits are coming in, what their transcript value is, is absolutely ridiculous to me that should never, ever happened. But giving them the opportunity to be able to solve that smoothly with less friction. Doesn't that start the relationship well, isn't that where the resources begin? From that point forward? And maybe retention begins before they even get there?
[00:30:35] David Cook: Absolutely. Jay, you just nailed the truth of all of the issues. So you talk about how relationships are established. If you're in the world of sales, you know that first impressions are very hard to undo and so let's talk about again, this cataclysmic change that helped us reshift our focus back, and what we now can do and what we're seeing as an outcome from this. So there was another presenter that you had on Enrollment Edge recently, and they were talking about how the hard conversations they had with the incoming class was what helped shape and retain their class and it wasn't necessarily just saying, hey, here are the classes you're going to take. It was being intentional about guiding them, coaching them and I think coaching is in itself such an important, impactful element in life, whether you're an adult or a child, who's going through adolescence, whether you're a college student, everyone needs coaching, everyone needs to have their mindset reframed and engaged, because he was talking about simply telling students over and over, look, this is hard, but you got it, change their ability to stick through and make an impact and so in other words, what we're saying is letting students know up front, that it's going to be hard and if you have a mistake, or if you're struggling with it, it's not because you're not good enough. It is intentionally hard, right? That's okay. It's okay to struggle a little bit, you're supposed to struggle through it. But how many students we talk about inequities. If you haven't come from a high school that really pushed you intentionally, and was a real challenge. When you get into college and it starts becoming a real challenge, then all of a sudden you start feeling inadequate and I can tell you as a student who came out of high school with a 4.3 National Honor Society, and I got into my alma mater, Baylor, my freshman year, I whooped my tail it was daunting, overwhelming and scary. In some ways. I immediately went from this 4.3 student to a 2.5 my first semester. Just a tremendous drop and what I kind of, you know, you go through this swirl of mentality and thoughts and then I'll come back to our premise here. But the emotional state of someone who's going through a life of success, and now getting hit, you know, everyone's got a plan until you get punched in the mouth. How do I bring myself back and if the enrollment teams, the inbound recruitment teams, success teams, can push into the mindset of that student, we're here to support you. These are the processes you're about to go through. This is the experience you have to go through. We're gonna guide you or give you help. But FYI, also, this is tough and if you struggle, it's okay. Expect to struggle and if you start to falter, that's okay. We'll help you get back on track and then follow through on that too.
[00:33:42] Jay Fedje: In the coaching mentality, the ability to be able to take a student that moves into a system that they're somewhat familiar with, or at least, you know, I have always said that a high school student has had a long time to get good at that system and by the time they get to their senior year, they're good at it. But then they jump into a new system, and they realize that a lot of those things don't translate. The way that they studied or how they went about, you know, gathering information or researching or communicating all those things suddenly are thrown. Between a first time at college freshmen and a second or third year transfer there's maybe some correlations between those that are very similar, in other words, that freshmen is having the same issue as that transfer does.
[00:34:42] David Cook: And if I may, that's really where I want to kind of get to. So Jay, you know me, I can be long winded. But if we continue to bring back this comprehensive thought about student success, student recruitment is student success and student coaching is student success. Student coaching is student recruitment, and transfer recruitment is student success and coaching. It's about creating transparency. It's about removing that friction and you mentioned a moment ago operationalizing it, how do you create a system as an institution that can truly derive these why's, that can truly meet the students psychology where they're at that can overcome those fears that can reduce the friction for them in a way that isn't going to break your bank. Because I have met with institutions who have five full time just transcript evaluators and they're trying very intense, intentionally and intensely to meet transfer students where they're at to recruit them in to create new website landing pages, and clear funnels, and advertisement campaigns that are specifically for transfer students and what they're all trying to really do is reduce the friction enough for the transfer student to overcome their fear. So when they can overcome that fear, and start to see a clear picture of the new goal of their life, because you're asking a transfer student to change their life and that is such a hard thought for most of us today. If we're establishing our career, imagine changing your life and getting a new career. You're asking a transfer student to do that, often with very little visibility into what that career is like, we can go research and go find out how much that new career might pay us, we can find out what certifications are required, how long it's going to take us? And how much research do you do before you make that decision? And still, how much time do you need with your family and discussions and prayer to just make that decision, and then move forward. Transfer students more often than not, unfortunately, this is statistically true, will find out that their credits are accepted or not until after they're enrolled. So if you were going to, as an example, find out what your salary will be a month after you joined a new job, would you take that risk?
[00:36:54] Jay Fedje: Of course not, you got to find someplace that's going to give you that kind of information prior to making a decision and yet, if no one is helping you, then you kind of have to find the place that you trust the most maybe or that has the most information even though it didn't give me everything. You talked about a school that had all the transcript evaluators and I came from a school that I thought at the time, I was making a really good decision about a transcript evaluator the person wasn't in the registrar's office, because registrar's offices have a lot to do with the current students and so, future students are less important than current students, just the nature of the beast. In admissions, future students are paramount, they're much more important and so I built the transcript evaluator and certified that person within my office and that was great and it got me partway down the road, but the problem was office hours, office hours, nine to five or eight to 430, or whatever and that is not necessarily when the transfer, wants to have their questions answered. They might be, you know, at two in the morning, they have decided, I gotta move in a different direction. I need to figure out where is my next landing spot is. How does this look? And at two in the morning, nobody's open. So what do I do? It's that captured moment that can release or increase the friction, right?
[00:38:33] David Cook: That's absolutely right and again, if we come back to the psychology of that student, and I want to put a specific persona here into the conversation, I imagine it's a 35 year old that's roughly yours truly, but who didn't finish their degree and I know we'd love to talk about transfer students as an intermediate one to transfer I'm out of college on transferring to another college. What is the operational process of that student different that it's not about who's trying to re enter? Forgive me I'm gonna shift real quick that persona, and use the exact same paradigm. I'm trying to find out how my existing credits from something I did 10-15 years ago are gonna now affect my ability to get back into college and do I have a nine to five availability where I can go visit your campus? Or am I working? But maybe that is the one thing that I need in my life, or to get into the new executive leadership role to finish my degree. I've worked for tremendous professionals who were in that exact boat and I spoke to them about their struggles, I know their struggles and it is not something that the work environment makes room for and often, it's not something that the institutions have, to your point, made, the room for either and so operationalizing, all of this, if we're trying to meet someone in their moment of need to reduce the friction and the fear and the ambiguity, you have to have something that and I this might scare people, right, but it's automatic and what can be automated because no one can really automate everything, there has to be a human element, and it still has to be systematized and simple.
[00:40:16] Jay Fedje: That's a part of the solution to release the friction, where we're talking to David Cook, founder and CEO of DegreeSight, and we're talking about transfers right now and simplifying processes and really, I would love to talk more about that situation, that solution of automation, where a transfer a year from that says, I'm going to be planning this transfer to maybe three or four or five different options or schools and I really would like to know, are my credits transferring? Can this guide me into the next two semesters of which classes I should be taking? How much time will I have left, once I get to my landing spot? Then my final four year degree play? How much will that cost me? I mean, that kind of planning, probably will release a gigantic amount of that friction for a perspective transfer student to a university, correct?
[00:41:24] David Cook: Absolutely and the heart of what we're doing here at DegreeSight is all about helping students get to their future and if I can boil it to anything, it's just simply that you talk about bringing people back in and unleashing this opportunity within higher education. We have 36 million students right now in the US who have some credits, but don't have a degree of any kind. We have 16 million students actively enrolled between two year four year and master's programs. So over double is our opportunity of recruitment. If we can go find a way to target them, meet them in their need, and sell them and the sale of a higher education degree is actually pretty easy. If you can meet them through their fear basis and their pain basis and get them to the reward. The challenge is you can't just sell them the reward, you have to be able to address their pain. So maybe this is a good time to get into the speed dating analogy.
[00:42:29] Jay Fedje: Talk about that.
[00:42:30] David Cook: So one of the ways I love to describe transfer students is as if it's someone who was dating a spouse that they were very interested in marrying for two years, and they've invested so much time, maybe they even had a dog together, right? And they're really ready to move forward and then in the final conversations, as one is about to propose, he turns back and looks at his, hopefully to be wife and he says, hey, I really want to have kids, are you ready for this part of our life, and they say no and I will never have kids and I apologize. I think you're a wonderful man. But we're not going to have kids and this man turns around, he says, okay, I apologize. But that's not what I want in my life. I am moving on and this may not feel like a transfer parallel. But what's actually happened here is that someone made a tremendous investment. They thought this was gonna be their future and now they have to walk away. Which is a transfer student. It is what we're dealing with today and so that now the individual goes to a speed dating, main grade pump. They sit at table A and table A has this beautiful, attractive person next to him and he sits down and says, great. Hi, my name is Bob and I'd love to talk to you about what your interests are. I just want to also let you know, I just got out of this two year relationship and the reason I left is because I wanted to have a family someday. Would you please tell me about how you feel about kids? And the individual across the table from him, she smiles and she bats her eyes and she is of course very attractive and beautiful and she's got a great job, but she says, well, I really can't talk about that yet. I don't know at this point in my life, but I think if we started today or if we move forward there's a possibility there, and I feel good about it. But in the meantime, let's go ahead and talk about my job and how fun my vacations are and all these great things and you're sitting there, Bob, and you're looking at this person, you think, man, they sure are attractive, and they seem like they've done everything else great, our values kind of align. But that's really important to me and it's gonna make a huge impact down the road. Sure, if you get up and you go, stand up from the table and go, okay, well, that's maybe a yes, but I'm not really confident. You sit down, then at the next table, and other beautiful gals, it's now and she bats her eyes and then you start talking about interests and all these things and then you say, again, hi, my name is Bob and I'd like to have a family, this is important to me and she says, oh, great, her eyes light up, and she says, I'm a sibling of four kids, we've got nieces and nephews everywhere and Thanksgiving, we have 20 kids all around us and it's the most wonderful family reunion out of the two, which one's gonna be your spouse? And so the challenge we have here with operationalizing and again, meeting people in their need, and pain versus pleasure is unfortunately, come back to that original core data proven fact, transfer students don't find out whether or not you want to have kids with them until after they enroll.
[00:45:29] Jay Fedje: Sure, right. They don't know the most important thing in that conversation. They don't know until after they start the relationship.
[00:45:36] David Cook: And this comes back down to institutional culture and success. Sure, you can see enrollment and the enrollment's job as supported by the registrar, the current students as important as the future students, and can you give them each a level of transparency and clarity that are going to provide to the current students and of course, that's a tremendously hard job. That does take personnel, it takes resources. But I'll tell you this, it's a whole lot harder if you're doing it on spreadsheets.
[00:46:02] Jay Fedje: I agree.
[00:46:03] David Cook: That's a challenge, but the impact is huge.
[00:46:06] Jay Fedje: I think from what I've seen, from what I know to be true with transfer students, they're a savvy buyer. They're a savvy group of students that are looking for that right fit, looking to align the values of what program, am I looking at? What program do you offer? How are you serving me and my needs as a transfer student? And will you continue to serve the needs of transfer students along the way until I graduate? Will you treat me like you treat other brand new freshmen? Will you treat me as well, as someone who hasn't been here for two years? And I'm only going to be here for two years? Will you treat me as well and I think honestly, that setting the stage for that is absolutely critical in the future, if a school is to identify transfers as a target audience, and I've always put schools into transfer compliant, transfer friendly and transfer attractive, if there's a transfer magnetic or transfer attractive university they have thought about that they have thought about the relationship from the very beginning, even before that student ever enrolls or applies, how can I begin to have this conversation and smooth the pathway for them to to actually enroll?
[00:47:45] David Cook: You just hit three separate points, Jay I'm going to hit each one, because they are so critically important, every single one, yes, your transfer students are savvy. Come back to that analogy. If you haven't been burned, because you had that two year relationship beforehand? Would you maybe know to ask about kids? Or do you have this assumption that it's going to work out? Transfer students have been burned? So they know to ask more questions. They're going to be probing more and yes, that increases the cost of the institution on the recruitment process and maybe that's why some institutions feel like it's harder to bring transfer students and they feel like it's transactional. Why are they asking me so many questions? Do they not care? Are they just kind of trying to get in, get out and move on? They might want to marry you and move on with their life and have a beautiful family and be the best alumni you've ever had. One of the interesting groups of people that I met and was at a conference that you and I were both at down in Houston, was a transfer specialist at another smaller institution, but they themselves had been a transfer student and so here they are the most bubbly, engaged, perfect alumni and training specialist who had been that transfer student.
[00:48:59] Jay Fedje: They knew the process.
[00:49:02] David Cook: In other words, being a transfer student doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to be a bad alumni or a bad student. Being someone who has come out of a bad relationship doesn't necessarily mean that you're gonna be bad in this next relationship, it might mean that you're simply going to be more intentional. So I would love to see institutions change this mentality of seeing transfer students as transactional and think of them instead as intentional, can you be intentional with them and so that comes down to, again, how you treat transfer students, and they're expecting the same thing. I don't want to be treated as transactional. I don't want to be seen as someone who's gonna pass through and maybe I'm gonna get my degree, and I've got the letter behind me on the wall. But I never go to football games, I don't wear the sweater, I don't want to donate. They want to be treated as someone who's intentional, and that will change their mentality and their retention and their intention, as well. The last thing we talked about It how institutions focus on them, whether they're compliant and friendly. I think the third you said was transfer attractive and I think therein is the crux of it, it all comes down to how you perceive these students, are they? Another interesting word I love hearing during this space is tribal. Are they kind of in their own little group and moving forward? Are they transactional? Are they passing through? What is their mentality and psychology? And if we can, as providers, as vendors, as institutions? Just start with that first element of how you perceive, how do you label? How do you plan on building a long term relationship with these students, what you'll see is your numbers can go through the roof. There are institutions who invest extensively, in transfer student recruitment and what they are doing is they're all trying to simply coming back to that same word, reduce friction, every institution that I've met that has really high transfer numbers, do a couple things specifically, very well, one, they answer the questions upfront, about how those credits will apply, two when the student then starts moving forward, they're coaching them, and they're engaging them, they're bringing him into an institutional culture to make them part of the institution and three, as they're driving them through the institution, they have all the other success elements in place already. It starts with that first one of removing the friction, and they're answering those questions up front. We can go into much longer conversation and Jay, we may do it here as well about ghost students and transitions. How do you start the conversation with a transfer student who may be a little more elusive they're so burned, they're not even at the tables yet of that little dating conference, they're just walking around outside looking at people and saying, well, I'm kind of trying to figure out, you know, they've been so burned. Are they even gonna start the conversation yet? And maybe it's appropriate to go into that conversation. We can go ahead and talk about that today.
[00:52:05] Jay Fedje: Well, you know, David, one of the things that I knew was going to happen and honestly, I predicted this in our last conversation is that we would have no problem filling our time. We are now at the top of the hour, so we're going to need to cut but what I'm going to do is I'm going to ask you to come back for episode two, a second part of this that we can dive into the recruiting of quality transfers, like you said, not following in recruiting ghosts and go into deeper detail about some of the services that are required to really serve the transfers well, on the front end, so that the student is set up for success throughout their journey and the remainder of the journey at the four year school. Will you come back again?
[00:52:55] David Cook: I'd be honored.
[00:52:55] Jay Fedje: Awesome, that's fantastic. I appreciate your time, David today. We're gonna bring you back again, and we'll put you back on a microphone to talk more about transfers and success, but I appreciate your time today. Thanks for being on the Enrollment Edge.
[00:53:08] David Cook: Thank you very much for having me, Jay.
[00:53:09] Jay Fedje: You've been listening to the Enrollment Edge podcast, Enrollment Edge is sponsored by enrollmentFUEL, a full service student search and marketing partner to colleges and universities. If you're listening on Apple podcast, please give us a five-star rating and review, your feedback will help us remain relevant and on the edge. The Enrollment Edge is produced by Alison Walls, I'm your host Jay Fedje. Thanks for listening.
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