In 2018, The University of Texas at Dallas submitted its newest Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)—titled New Transfer Student Success—to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), our regional accreditor, as part of the reaffirmation of accreditation process.
Our QEP is an ambitious, multi-year project aimed at enhancing transfer support services across campus and ensuring that all new transfer students are engaged and feel a sense of belonging at UT Dallas. It is the culmination of a years-long effort to gather institutional data, analyze student outcomes, improve support programs and services, and equip our students to succeed both in and out of classrooms.
UT Dallas’ overarching mission, as stated in our Strategic Plan, is to graduate well-rounded citizens whose education has prepared them for rewarding lives and productive careers in a constantly changing world. New Transfer Student Success is one of the many ways that we’re working to make that vision a reality.
What is a Quality Enhancement Plan?
To retain our status as a public research university—and to remain in good standing with SACSCOC—UT Dallas must undergo a decennial reaffirmation of accreditation process, which typically takes 2-3 years to complete. This comprehensive review of all university operations ensures that UT Dallas adheres to the highest possible institutional standards. The QEP is an integral part of this process, a symbol of our ongoing commitment to upholding the principles and best practices established by SACSCOC.
But our QEP represents more than the mere fulfillment of SACSCOC policy. It is our promise to both current and future students--and to residents across the state of Texas--that we will pursue excellence in education and research by continuously striving to improve student learning outcomes, to enhance curricular and co-curricular supports across campus, and to help all students learn, grow, and thrive during their time at UT Dallas.
With a QEP focused on transfer student success--and with the inauguration of our new Office of Community College Relations--we are committed to developing stronger partnerships with two- and four-year institutions across North Texas and beyond and transforming UT Dallas into one of the state’s most transfer-ready universities.
New Transfer Student Success: Vision & Goals
Situated in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex—and in close proximity to two large community college systems (Collin College and Dallas College)—our university has been a go-to destination for transfer students interested in a top-tier baccalaureate education.
Transfer students make up more than 32% of our current undergraduate population. Ranging in age from 17 to 74, they arrive at UT Dallas with diverse experiences and educational backgrounds. We have exemplary transfer student retention rates--according to the most recent data, approximately 81% of our students persist from year one to year two--but we know that students who transfer between institutions often face a variety of challenges as they acclimate to new academic and social environments. Although 48% of our transfer students are 22 years old and younger, thus similar in age to “traditional” first-time-in-college students, some of our students have reported that they’ve struggled to meet like-minded peers, establish a healthy school-work-life balance, or connect to our campus community.
New Transfer Student Success (NTSS) creates a framework for helping new transfer students overcome these challenges, feel a sense of belonging on campus, and develop the skills they’ll need to succeed at UT Dallas and in their chosen career paths.
Developed with the most current student success research in mind—with a particular focus on sense of belonging and student engagement—NTSS aims to boost student learning outcomes, and thus both retention and graduation rates, by encouraging new transfer students to participate in what George Kuh, Vincent Tinto, and others refer to as “high-impact practices.” Of the many such practices in place at UT Dallas, NTSS is designed to enhance two in particular: peer mentoring and first-year experiences.
Aiming to help new students adjust to campus, we’ve developed an innovative peer mentoring program that matches transfer students with more advanced transfer student mentors who can provide support, encouragement, and helpful advice during that crucial first year on campus.
We believe that new students will benefit from close contact with an experienced peer who has already successfully navigated the transfer process. Our goal, as we work to expand the program, is to eventually provide meaningful mentoring opportunities for all interested incoming transfer students.
We are also working to increase new transfer students’ face-to-face interactions with their peers, as well as with UT Dallas faculty and staff, through the creation of enhanced transfer orientation programming. In consultation with current transfer students and key faculty and administrative stakeholders, we’ve spearheaded efforts to enhance the orientation experience for new transfer students so that they can better develop meaningful connections with peers and student groups, take advantage of university supports, and excel in their chosen fields of study.
Alongside these initiatives, we’ve gathered a cross-campus group of stakeholders to redesign our transfer equivalency tool, which will make it easier for prospective students and student advisors to evaluate transfer credits and thus make the best decisions possible when it comes to major and course selection. We’re also developing a new transfer services website that will co-locate information that’s currently found across several different web environments, making it easier for students to find key information before, during, and after they enroll at UT Dallas.
Although these projects are not formal QEP initiatives, they are led by the QEP stakeholder team and play an important role in making UT Dallas a more transfer-ready institution.
We know that students face a variety of obstacles when they transfer from one institution to another. NTSS is an integral part of our ongoing institutional efforts to simplify the transfer process and improve transfer student success.
QEP History & Timeline
From its founding in 1969 as a small, private institute for graduate students, UT Dallas has grown to become one of the nation’s preeminent public research institutions. Recognized in 2015 as a top-tier Research I university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education—and propelled in part by the rapid economic growth of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex—we are the fourth-fastest-growing university in the United States. Exciting as this is, such explosive growth carries with it new challenges for our institution as we work to maintain exceptional educational standards for a growing and diverse student body.
Beginning in 2015, we initiated the reaffirmation of accreditation by soliciting ideas for our next Quality Enhancement Plan. We analyzed best practices at top-tier universities across the nation, and we invited faculty, staff, and students to serve on numerous QEP-related committees. We also solicited detailed proposals from stakeholders across campus and carried out a robust analysis of institutional data and student development research.
After a thorough review of all available information, we realized that the most effective QEP would be one that enhanced high-impact programs for first-year students. With this in mind, we took a holistic view of the first-year experience and developed an initiative known as Orbit: Keeping New Comets on Course that aimed to improve support services for all new UT Dallas students: first-time-in-college students, transfer students, international students, and graduate students. We also created a group called the New Student Engagement Board, made up of stakeholders across campus who oversee new student programming and coordinate campus-wide student support efforts.
But as we examined the scope of Orbit--and as we worked in consultation with SACSCOC reviewers to refine our QEP--we came to believe that one student group in particular would benefit from enhanced support services as well as the development of new high-impact programs: transfer students.
Aiming to deepen transfer students’ sense of belonging at UT Dallas—which we define as their sense of purpose and agency to achieve educational, personal, and professional goals as they recognize that they are respected, valued, and included in all aspects of the campus environment—we retained the overarching Orbit initiative while narrowing our QEP to focus on improving the new student experience for all UT Dallas transfer students.
Submitted to SACSCOC in 2018, New Transfer Student Success represents our ongoing efforts to develop high-impact, first-year programs, to enhance curricular and co-curricular supports, and to help new transfer students connect with members of our campus community and feel a sense of belonging to UT Dallas.
We’ve made strategic adjustments to our QEP since we submitted it to SACSCOC, prompted by institutional developments and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes will be detailed in our 5th year report.
Reports & Resources
If you would like to read our Quality Enhancement Plan—or find out more about the selection and development of the QEP—please check out the following resources:
Prior Quality Enhancement Plan
Gateways to Excellence in Math and Science (2008)
The Gateways to Excellence in Math and Science (GEMS) Quality Enhancement Plan was designed to improve student learning outcomes in “gateway” math and science courses, specifically chemistry and calculus. Our QEP led to a curriculum redesign in various math and science courses to ensure students were achieving learning outcomes and to establish new methods of learning enhancement, such as peer and electronic instruction outside of classes. The QEP culminated in the creation of the Student Success Center, which provides all UT Dallas students with academic coaching, tutoring, peer-led team learning, and other instructional supports.
Do you want to learn more about our ongoing efforts to make UT Dallas a more transfer-friendly university? If so, please contact:
J. D. Thomas
QEP & Orbit Director
Assistant Provost, Office of Community College Relations