NISTS: 17 years of advocating for transfer students

Dr. Bonita Jacobs recognized an emerging national trend at the turn of the 21st century: the percentage of college students who transferred from one institution to another was growing, but resources to help them and the higher education professionals who serve them were not.

Jacobs, then-vice president for student development at the University of North Texas, devised a solution. She founded the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS) in 2002 to tackle the highly complex issues that transfer students face. Two years later, she published, “The College Transfer Student in America: The Forgotten Student.”

“Transfer students are a unique and growing group who have much to contribute to the college campus community, but they sometimes encounter challenges associated with the transfer process. It is important to student success to have higher education professionals trained to address the specific needs of transfer students, and NISTS helps educate those who serve this population,” Jacobs said. “Each year, NISTS finds innovative ways to raise awareness and educate the higher education community about transfer issues to ensure a student’s experience at a new institution is positive and successful.”

The only national organization solely focused on transfer students, NISTS has evolved into an innovative association that empowers practitioners, faculty and administrators to be transfer champions using the lenses of education, research and advocacy.

“Mobility is reality. College students are earning credits from, and moving between, multiple institutions en route to a degree,” said Dr. Janet Marling, who has served as executive director of NISTS since 2011. “It is imperative that we simplify the process so students don’t incur unnecessary delays in graduation and increased educational costs.”

Originally operating from the University of North Texas, NISTS relocated in 2012 to UNG, which offers a unique perspective on the transfer process, given the institution’s consolidation in 2013 that brought together a four-year university and a two-year college.


NISTS supplies higher education professionals with a variety of resources, including a post-master’s certificate in transfer leadership and practice and a prominent annual conference.

The newly developed certificate is a one-of-a-kind program that offers 12 doctoral-level credit hours and features an in-depth examination of transfer student issues and research-based information. The professional development opportunity acts as a precursor to doctoral work like UNG’s Doctor of Education in higher education leadership and practice.

“It’s a win-win,” Marling said. “Our students learn how to be better transfer professionals while testing their interest in pursuing a doctoral degree.”

The annual NISTS conference provides strategies to improve transfer student programs and services, equipping professionals from two- and four-year institutions, state agencies, higher education associations and foundations with the knowledge needed to advocate for transfer students and develop holistic student experiences.

NISTS initiated National Student Transfer Week in 2017; it will be celebrated October 21-25 this year.
UNG sponsors a Transfer Experience Retreat, a low-key overnight retreat open to all incoming transfer students that is designed to enhance the transfer experience.
UNG senior and transfer student Isabella “Bella” Michel won the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award from the American College Personnel Association’s Commission for Admissions, Orientation, and First Year Experience.