Saying Goodbye to Loyola: Transfer Students and Why They’re Leaving

Courtesy of Taylor SlonakerTaylor Slonaker transferred out of Loyola due to the impacts living in a big city had on her mental health.

Loyola had 1,309 students transfer out of the university between fall 2019 and spring 2021, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE). With an average around of 11,800 undergraduates per semester, Loyola lost about 1% of its population.

Some former Loyola students described not feeling welcome or safe on campus, while others said being in Chicago during the pandemic was a source of anxiety. 

Leslie Owen | The Phoenix

The Phoenix asked for transfer student data broken down per semester, but the OIE was unable to fully do this due to being “extremely busy,” according to Andrius Aukstuolis, senior systems administrator of OIE. 

Students described telling their advisor they decided to leave Loyola and requesting a transcript. Taylor Slonaker, now a junior at the University of Vermont (UVM), said she didn’t remember being asked why she wanted to leave Loyola. 

Slonaker, who left Loyola after the spring 2021 semester, said she spent her sophomore year living in Chicago while taking online classes at Loyola. 

“I grew up in a small town so the change to city life was pretty drastic to me and with the pandemic, and knowing it would continue, I did not think living in a city would be great for my mental health,” Slonaker, 20, said. 

At UVM, Slonaker said her classes stayed in person through the pandemic because it’s a small student population that’s highly vaccinated – something Slonaker said was a contrast to being around so many people in Chicago during the pandemic, which became a source of anxiety.

“I personally am enjoying my time at University of Vermont more because a lot of my time at Loyola was during the pandemic, so it just wasn’t enjoyable,” Slonaker said. 

Enrique Corredera, executive director of news and public affairs at UVM, said the university had a requirement students be fully vaccinated before returning to campus fall of 2021 and receive booster shots no later than Feb. 1. 

“This has resulted in vaccination rates of nearly 100%, and, coupled with other pandemic strategies, has allowed the university to continue offering in-person instruction,” Corredera said.

Corredera said the university has 11,081 undergraduate students this semester – about 800 less than Loyola.

Demitri Morgan, a Loyola professor of higher education, said students transferring colleges or universities is an increasingly common practice. 

“Lots of colleges are expensive but I think more and more students approach their college as any consumer good,” Morgan said. “If you go to buy a car or clothes for example, you have the ability to try on multiple before making an actual purchase. For higher ed … the process is not as easy as going to a dressing room and trying on multiple pairs of pants, you have to actually transfer.”

Morgan said that 40 years ago, it was common for a person to stay at the same college until graduation, which is no longer realistic today due to labor markets, costs of higher education and more.

He said in his time studying higher education, it’s more common to see students transfer because of tuition costs, social environments and student populations. Additionally, the pandemic has made it even more common for students to transfer schools or stop pursuing higher education entirely. 

Lester Manzano, assistant vice president for Student Academic Services, said students planning to transfer complete a “Notice of Intent to Withdraw from the University,” which should be filled out with the student’s advisor. 

“The form provides a check-list form of items for students to review, such as consulting with the financial aid office, canceling on-campus housing contract with residence life,” Lester said. 

Chloe Chai, now a junior at San Francisco State University, said they left Loyola after the fall 2020 semester. Chai said they originally chose Loyola because of its campus and they wanted to be far from their home state, California, but they started considering leaving after their first winter break.

“I made really good friends, I just didn’t find a sense of place at Loyola,” Chai, 20, said. “Loyola is predominantly white and it’s just really intimidating, they’re not very welcoming as a whole.” 

During the 2019-2020 school year, white students made up 54% of the undergraduate population, according to an OIE report. 

Like Slonaker, Chai said the transfer process was simple. All they did was fill out paperwork to withdraw — found on Loyola’s website — and gave a one line answer as to why they wanted to leave. 

Lester said the intent to withdraw form asks students to give information on why they decided to leave Loyola, or academic advisers will ask. 

While Chai said transferring schools is hard for anyone, they are happier with their experience at San Francisco State because they say the city is more diverse, they have more class options and the campus is still beautiful. 

“It’s not even for any specific school, the transfer process and U.S. education is just really, really hard, they don’t assist you at all, they don’t guide you through anything,” Chai said.

Chai said transferring schools itself is easy, but there isn’t adequate support in the process of gathering documents and enrolling for classes at a new school.

They said generally, universities aren’t transparent on what courses you’ll need before transferring and what courses won’t apply to your credits until late in the process. They said having someone to explain this to them early on would have been helpful. 

Lester said the credit transfer process varies depending on the school and students should meet or contact admission counselors from their new university to better understand what credits will transfer. 

Once at San Francisco State, Chai had classes specifically for transfer students which included mentors to help them learn about resources available and they made friends pretty quickly. 

While both Chai and Slonaker said the process was easy, they ran into problems with Loyola’s core class credits not transferring. 

Morgan said this is common because there is no universal credit tracking system. Further, it may be easier for students to transfer between public schools because they tend to have “articulation agreements,” which are just common practice agreements to track class credits, such as a word count for writing intensive classes. Because Loyola is private, its core classes are expressed as unique courses that frequently won’t transfer. 

“If we’re pitching to students initially that there’s something unique about the Loyola degree and something that’s really important about how we do things in the core, then it shouldn’t translate neatly or clearly to a public institution,” Morgan said. “Because then the value is just, ‘Well why wouldn’t you just go to a public institution that’s cheaper.’”

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