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Princeton Will Resume Transfer Admissions


Since 1990, Princeton University has not admitted transfer students — even as a growing number of colleges have embraced transfer admissions as a way to attract a more diverse student body than is possible relying on full-time freshman enrollment.

The university, as part of a new strategic plan, said that it will have a transfer plan in place by 2018. The strategic plan will also result in an additional 125 students being admitted each year (through a variety of means besides transfer). When four classes are admitted, the existing number of undergraduates, 5,200, will go up by 500. In expanding, the university said that it would make “a concerted effort to identify and attract more students from low-income families and ensure these students receive the support they need once they are on campus.” (This is the second time in a decade that Princeton has increased the size of its undergraduate student body and linked those increases to efforts to diversify.)

Princeton alumni have for years complained that the university’s ban on transfer admissions has hurt athletic programs, as other Ivy institutions have admitted outstanding athletes as transfers.

Whatever the motivation, the tendency of the most competitive colleges on transfer admissions has been to have the transfer option, but to admit incredibly few students that way — with the admission rate even lower that that of freshman admissions at these institutions.

Experts on transfer stress that the transfer policies that have the greatest impact are those of public higher education systems, which educate more students than do private colleges and which — in many states — assume that large numbers of eventual bachelor’s degree recipients will start at community colleges.

Even so, experts said Princeton’s move was significant.

Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center of Teachers College of Columbia University, studies community college transfers. He said via email that the traditional admissions model at elite private colleges makes it “extremely difficult” for low-income students to be admitted. Talent that might not be identified among high school seniors could well be identified among community college students, he said, and diversify colleges. “I think Princeton’s announcement could be significant in that it could send a message to other elite privates that transfer is a good thing to do.