By JOEL FUNK
As the University of Wyoming looks to boost a trend of flat enrollment numbers, its leaders hope transfer students will help pick up the slack.
During a public listening session in Laramie where UW President Laurie Nichols and others solicited feedback regarding a five-year strategic plan, Alyson Hagy, interim dean of the Outreach School and special advisor to the president, said there’s been a more considerable dip in the number of transfer students in recent years.
“This suggests there are some more opportunities we could be taking,” Hagy said during the Dec. 7 meeting at the Albany County Public Library.
Though UW’s graduate student population is healthy for its size, Nichols said undergraduate enrollment through the last nine years was “incredibly flat.”
“There has been very little growth in enrollment,” Nichols said at the Albany County Public Library. “In the last year or two while graduate enrollment has held fairly steady for us, undergraduate enrollment has been down. So, in this downhill trend — if you can call a couple years a trend — the overall count has been declining.”
Transfer student numbers peaked in 2010 with 1,159, but that number steadily dropped before bottoming out in 2015 at 930. Of 12,366 students accounted for on the fall 2016, 967 were new transfer students.
About two-thirds of transfers to UW come from community colleges within Wyoming. After a significant drop in Wyoming community college transfers between 2014-2015, the university changed its recruiting patterns in a way that Hagy said produced results. However, she said Wyoming community college students are still recruiting targets for out-of-state universities.
“What we did is named one admissions recruiter just to state of Wyoming, and he had the effect of bringing in an additional 37 Wyoming students to UW,” she said. “That was an object lesson for us, but competitors from around the country have started to become very attractive to community college graduates in the state of Wyoming, and we need to pay attention to that.”
Casper College and Laramie County Community College provided the most significant numbers of in-state transfers in fall 2016, with 153 from Casper College and 150 from LCCC. Out-of-state transfers totaled 338 in fall 2016. Nichols said most of UW’s just less than 4,000 non-resident students are from Colorado, Nichols said.
When it comes to in-state transfers, Hagy said UW needs to make efforts to recruit from Wyoming institutions farther from Laramie, such as Northwest College. Even with availability of the Hathaway Scholarship — which provides Wyoming residents entering in-state colleges different levels of funding based on academic performance — Hagy said some students are compelled to attend college outside of Wyoming.
“Casper College and (Laramie County Community College) are big and significant partners for us, but every college provides a number of students and there are opportunities there,” Hagy said. “The further you get away from Laramie — there’s a very fine college up in Powell — the numbers drop, even with the Hathaway’s. So again, tremendous opportunity for us to recruit some of these great kids for our college.”
Before being named interim dean of the Outreach School, Hagy worked closely on enhancing UW’s relationship with Wyoming’s seven community colleges. In trying to build opportunities for transfer students, the Wyoming Legislature tasked UW with fixing credit transfer problems.
Efforts to do so included:
— Developing four-year pathways to graduation for all programs that allow students to see whether courses will count toward a degree
— Engaging community colleges to discuss how to coordinate degree programs, announcing the $1,000 Hoyt Scholarship for Wyoming community college graduates with a 3.4 GPA or higher
— Incentivized tuition rate for community college graduates
— Looking at developing improved advising services
— Adding a bachelor’s of applied science degree that can be built onto any associate’s degree