The multiple dimensions of raising the transfer GPA


Photo: Madeline Doyle/Iowa State Daily

Universities will take your ACT score, transcripts, GPA and class-rank all into account, but one essential trait examined for acceptance is missing. Extroverts tend to thrive in school atmospheres because a majority of school systems cater to their traits.

Robert Roberson

Students transfer from community colleges and other universities regularly, but soon Iowa State will only be taking students with a 2.25 GPA or higher, up from a 2.00 GPA.

This change will be true for most students looking to transfer to Iowa State, unless you have your associates degree, which was originally reported in March. Students who have attained an associate’s degree will be eligible to transfer regardless of their GPA.

These changes come from a report by the Enrollment Management Task Force, which was headed by current Faculty Senate President Jonathan Sturm.

Sturm shared that much of the change comes for preserving quality of education. Stating that it would open courses for other, more qualified students and help students get a better one-on-one education. Sturm cited that eight years ago the faculty to student ratio was 1-15, and now it’s 1-19.

Veronica Dark, faculty senator and member of the enrollment management task force, suggested that the change could make students more successful and more prepared. She did concede that there could be some negatives cutting off students that could succeed, and mentioned that exceptions can always be made.

“There will be students who will be guided that they probably aren’t ready to come to Iowa State,” Dark said.

Dark addressed the quality of education by laying out the most common options for professors when instructing a class. The first being a sink or swim type method and treating everyone equally regardless of issues they have academically. The second would be to spend time on the few that get caught up in the class.

“Raise the admission standards so that students who are more highly qualified, and more likely to succeed, are admitted,” Sturm said.

Sturm did address that this is one solution, but not the only solution. The other solution addressed in the task-force report suggested raising the Regent Admission Index (RAI). A step that Faculty Senate has already took, was to eliminate the “summer option”, which allowed for students below the minimum RAI (245) to take classes over the summer. That change will be implemented in the summer of 2018.

“We’re not telling people you can’t ever come,” Sturm said. “If you don’t have an associate’s degree and you’re trying to transfer directly out of say one semester of community college, take a little more time and get a little bit more collegiate background before you come to a very high intensity university.”

Cody West, president of the Student Body, rejects the idea of raising the RAI. While that was something, he believes strongly he wasn’t sure of the transfer GPA and wanted to make clear that his opinion is subject to change.

“From what I know at this moment in time, I would say no [to the GPA raise],” West said of the GPA raise based on retention rates. “I would like to see a full evaluation of what we actually do specifically for transfer students that come in during the fall.”

West also addressed the difficulties of transferring to Iowa State, which he considered significantly different than coming straight from high school. He talked about the difference in orientation, the lack of Destination Iowa State and the difference in social circles moving to Iowa State from a community college.

“We obviously want students to be successful at Iowa State,” West said. “We don’t want them to come here and not actually get that degree they set out here to obtain.”

West went on to address that there is a concern when students transfer and cannot seem to find their fit. He also found some concern in their likeliness to succeed and offered that maybe the issue is more about how transfer students are brought into Iowa State.

“I would like to see it move towards 2.50, but these things need to happen gradually so that people are not disadvantaged,” Sturm said.

Dark mentioned that the raise to 2.25 could work fine. She said that they would have to watch to see what happens from this change and reassess in the future.

“We’re supposed to educate, not just take [students] in,” Dark said.

Sturm doesn’t see too many negative side effects from this change, and claims that if a student perseveres in community college they’re more likely to be successful. Sturm approximates that this will affect 6 to 7 percent of transfer students.

That approximation is corroborated by Katharine Johnson Suski, director of admissions. Suski provided data that shows Iowa State University had 1,871 transfer students without an associate’s degree in the fall of 2016. She went on to explain that this would affect, on average, 110 to 140 students per fall semester.

If the GPA raise was already in place the range of students that would be affected, statistically fall of 2016, would be 112 to 131 students. Of the students who enrolled to Iowa State in the fall of 2016, 131 fell into the less than 2.25 GPA range.

Suski also provided data on students that would fall below the 2.5 range, and claimed it would add an extra 150 to 180 students to the previous 110 to 140 (that’s 260 to 320 students total). The number of students that would’ve been beneath the 2.50 GPA was 274 in fall of 2016.

“We’re a land grant university. It’s important to offer access to students we believe can be successful here,” Suski said.

Suski mentioned that the Office of Admissions wasn’t a part of the enrollment management task force, but that they did provide some input. She went on to express that the Office of Admissions always wants to be available as a resource for admission policy change.

Suski later explained that the needs of true freshmen and transfer students are very different. Stating that most students that come in as freshmen will be at Iowa State for four to six years, while transfer students average two to three years.

Dark also talked about how there is a chance that some people may be offended by this change.

“There is a tension sometimes between the people in the community college system and people in the university system,” Dark said. “With people in the university system thinking the people in the community college system isn’t as high level work.”

Dark went on to explain the Board of Regents’ articulations conference, which is made to ensure that similar materials are covered between community colleges and universities.

Stacy L. Mentzer, institutional effectiveness executive director at Iowa Central Community College, had some input about transfer students. She stated that roughly 25 percent of all their students transfer to Iowa State, and that most have a 3.00 GPA or higher.

Mentzer didn’t feel very strongly about the change, and didn’t seem to be offended at all.

“Depends on what the goal is,” Mentzer said. “If that’s what it takes to improve student success.”

In the end, the information that was presented to the Faculty Senate was based on one-year retention rates and six-year graduation rates. The document shows 65 percent one year retention rates for transfer students between 2.00 and 2.25 GPA, 73 percent for students in the 2.25 to 2.49 GPA range and 81 percent for all students without their associate’s degree.

For the six-year graduation rates of transfer students, 43 percent of students between 2.00 and 2.25 will graduate, 55 percent from 2.25 to 2.49 and 68 percent for all students without their associates.

That would mean that fall 2016 would’ve cut out approximately 56 out of 131 students who are likely to graduate within 6 years if the transfer GPA was 2.25, and approximately 135 students out of 274 if the transfer GPA was 2.50. While approximately 1,272 of the 1,871 transfer students without an associate’s degree will graduate in six years.

In the end, the goal seems to try to reward students who may be more prepared, especially from the perspective of Sturm and Dark. Though there seems to be room for debate and there may be negatives that come from this change. From West’s current perspective, while small, it may be a problem, but Mentzer, as a community college faculty member, sees the reasoning.

The data provided by Suski shows a lot about what’s going on here, and that raising the transfer GPA may help students that are not prepared to come to Iowa State. Currently, raising the transfer GPA will affect roughly 50 percent of those students, based on data from fall 2016.

According to the numbers, students from fall 2016 that would not graduate in six years and fall under a 2.50 GPA make up roughly 23 percent of all students who would not graduate after transferring without their associates degree.