Strategic Enrollment Management Quarterly

Advancing research in enrollment and student success

Editor's Note

Bob Bontrager, Ph.D.

When viewing higher education over the past ten to fifteen years, one would be hard pressed to find two more active topics than student transfer and internationalization. On the former, this issue of SEMQ includes two articles on the issues associated with students transitioning from community colleges to universities. As an editor, having two articles on this topic in a single issue seems serendipitous, as it was not planned. At the same time, it is indicative of the primacy of the topic, which not only has become increasingly important but also is actively evolving.

It has been more than 20 years since Alfredo de los Santos and others began using the term “swirl” to describe students’ often circuitous enrollment patterns between community colleges and universities. The swirling has only become more intense with the rapid increase in online, for-profit, and other educational options. Within that context, Bruce Clemetsen, Lee Furbeck, and Alicia Moore do us the service of delineating the various types of student swirl from both strategic planning and enrollment service perspectives. In doing so, they create a taxonomy for naming and planning the types of collaborations in which institutions might engage in order to better enable students to complete degrees.

Bart Grachan further describes new transfer realities by focusing on the process of students moving from community colleges to highly selective four-year institutions. More-selective institutions have a history of eschewing “inferior” credit from other schools, often holding their reluctance to accept transfer students as a badge of honor. Whatever the implications of that stance historically, they take on added significance in the face of current realities. Grachan cites the large percentage of current students who start at community colleges and notes that this phenomenon is “an issue that affects nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates, to the detriment of the vast majority of them, and the effects of which are visited disproportionally both on underrepresented minority and on low-income students, this passivity is increasingly problematic on a national level.” His article is an important read for anyone concerned with access and equity issues.

Internationalization certainly qualifies as a hot topic as well. Driven by the dual goals of revenue generation and cultural diversity, adding international students has become a ubiquitous institutional enrollment goal in the United States and internationally. Kent R. Hopkins’ article provides a useful roadmap for planning and delivering programs to increase international enrollment.

Neither improved student transfer or international enrollment programs—nor any other strategic enrollment management initiative—will succeed without strong collaboration and effective leadership. Luke David Schultheis draws from his experience in developing SEM organizations at multiple universities in noting that “SEM efforts rely upon institution-wide engagement, not tacit approval.” Speaking to leadership issues, Richard A. Skinner observes the differences in SEM leadership in the United States and in Canada. His analysis will be useful to all SEM professionals.