Academic Success of Passport Students Post-Transfer

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Interstate Passport Briefing
This is one of 6 articles in the March 2020 newsletter.

By Michael Torrens, Utah State University

A crucial element of participation in the Interstate Passport Network is the reporting each institution provides on Passports awarded and the post-transfer academic progress of students with Passports. Participation in the Passport Network involves a certain amount of trust that the students that transfer into your institution (and who earned their lower-division general education elsewhere) will be adequately prepared to succeed and graduate. Each institution provides data for its Passport student transfers to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) in cohorts, and NSC aggregates this information and reports back to each institution and the Passport Review Board as Academic Progress Tracking reports. Academic progress details include: Gender (Male/Female); Race/Ethnicity; Age; Low Income (Pell-Eligible as the proxy for low income); Active Military/Veteran; GPA Earned Before Transfer; Credits Earned Before Transfer; First-Generation Student; and Degree-Level (Associate vs. Bachelor’s).

Academic progress reports provided to member institutions, and to the Passport Review Board, provide the assurance that members are fulfilling their expectations. Members of the Network provide detailed, student-level, academic progress data, tracking students for two terms after transfer. In addition to providing details for students that transferred in with a Passport, data for two comparison groups is also provided: 1) students who made the same transfer (from one Network institution to another Network institution); and 2) students who earned a Passport at the recipient institution, but did not transfer. NSC maintains the confidentiality of this data.

In the third year of Network operations (AY2018-2019), 17 institutions submitted reports for Academic Progress Tracking through the NSC. This is more than double the number of institutions reporting in AY2017-2018, and represents 77 percent of the institutions that reported Passport awards. For the first time, the data provides sufficient numbers of transfer students with Passports to have confidence about the summary statistics provided in many of the dimensions that comprise academic progress tracking. A total of 472 student transfers with a Passport were reported in the three cohorts reported in AY 2018-19 (June 1–August 31, 2018; September 1–December 31, 2018; and January 1–May 31, 2019).

A comprehensive review of the academic progress data reported for AY 2018-19 shows some general trends across all reported dimensions. For the 472 students who transferred with a Passport in AY 2018-19, grade point average (GPA) after transfer was consistently higher when compared to students who transferred without a Passport in AY2018-2019. In addition, academic performance of students who transferred with a Passport was roughly comparable to that of students who earned a Passport and remained at the same institution.

The figure below shows average GPAs, post-transfer, across four representative dimensions. The results across these four dimensions show statistically higher average GPAs for students who transferred with a Passport (in yellow), when compared to the average GPAs of students who transferred without a Passport (in red), and similar average GPAs for Passport transfers compared to the students that earned a Passport at the same institution (in blue).

With 472 Passport transfers, statistically valid samples were not yet available across all reported dimensions, particularly for those sub-populations of Passport transfers that are a small percentage of total Passport student transfers. The figure below provides academic progress detail for Passport transfers by race/ethnicity. Please note that the information displayed for Average GPA by Race/Ethnicity includes four categories (White, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, and Two or More Races). In coming years data sets for the other reported dimensions (Black/African American, American Indian/AK Native, Native HI/Pacific Islander, and non-resident alien) will be available as their sample sizes grow large enough to statistically analyze and publish. Average GPA for Passport transfer students was consistently higher across all reportable dimensions of race/ethnicity, in line with the other reported dimensions.

In summary, across all areas of measurement, post-transfer academic progress for students who transferred with a Passport was consistently higher than that of students who transferred without a Passport. The average GPA for the 472 students who transferred with a Passport in AY 2018-19 was 3.48. This compares to a GPA of 2.93 for students who transferred without a Passport, and a GPA of 3.37 for students who earned a Passport while remaining at the same institution. The average number of semester credits earned by students who transferred with a Passport was 11.25, compared to 10.36 for students who transferred without a Passport. These details are clear in the table below, which summarizes academic progress detail by gender.

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