Frequently Asked Questions

Questions are grouped by categories for your convenience.

What is the origin of the Interstate Passport Initiative?

Chief academic leaders in the WICHE states conceived the idea of a new framework with learning outcomes serving as the currency for transfer in an effort to better serve their students, particularly those who transfer across state lines. WICHE staff manages the Interstate Passport program on behalf of the Passport Review Board and all of the members of the Interstate Passport Network.

Who developed the essential parts of the Interstate Passport?

Faculty from universities and community colleges in the initial seven participating states jointly developed the Passport Learning Outcomes (PLOs) and Proficiency Criteria (PC).

For how long did faculty work on the Interstate Passport?

When the Passport PLOs and PC were completed in spring 2016, faculty members had worked for over three years to develop the Interstate Passport framework. Working in teams, faculty arrived at a consensus on learning outcomes developed from ones that, in most cases, already existed in departments and programs in their institutions and states. Similarly, the proficiency criteria are examples of assignments currently in use by faculty to develop and assess proficiency with each PLO.

What is contained in the Interstate Passport framework?

The framework contains nine knowledge and skill areas that map to the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The Interstate Passport includes the foundational skills of oral communication, written communication, and quantitative literacy; knowledge of concept in natural sciences, human cultures, creative expression, and human society and the individual; and the cross-cutting skills of critical thinking, and teamwork and value systems.

Is there a process in place to consider revisions to the PLOs and PC?

Yes. Higher education learning is not static. Every three years the interstate faculty teams are re-convened to review the PLOs to ensure that they remain current.

What are the advantages of the Interstate Passport’s learning outcomes-based framework over the course-by-course framework for transfer?

A learning outcomes-based block transfer respects institutional autonomy in defining the academic work required for a student to become proficient with the learning outcomes in the block; ensures that students who transfer to another Interstate Passport Network institution will not have to repeat academic work; and simplifies institutions’ transfer process by eliminating the necessity to deal with every single course on an individual basis. This approach produces greater curricular flexibility for the sending institution and more efficient transfer-credit evaluation for the receiving institution for lower-division general education. The most important result is that students know in advance that their lower-division general education work will be accepted at other Network member institutions to which they are admitted.

Does participation in the Interstate Passport Network require adoption of the PLOs or changing our own learning outcomes to look like the Passport outcomes?

No. Participation in the Interstate Passport Network does not require any institution to adopt the Passport Learning Outcomes or change its own learning outcomes to match the PLOs, but rather to be able to see the PLOs as consistent, congruent and not in conflict with the institution’s learning outcomes.. The PLOs are a consensus set of learning outcomes, arrived at by faculty from multiple states, that are widely acceptable statements of the expectations of transfer students.

Does Interstate Passport provide institutions with a list of courses that must be in their Passport Blocks or that students must take to earn a Passport?

No. Each participating institution determines which courses, course sequences, non-course-based learning experiences and levels of achievement provide assurance that its students have achieved the Passport Learning Outcomes. This becomes the institution’s Passport Block. The institution also agrees to accept the documented Passport of any admitted student, nationwide, as completion of its lower-division general education (LDGE) requirements, even though the courses or learning experiences by which the student achieved the learning outcomes may have been different.

What is the purpose of the Proficiency Criteria (PC)? Are they benchmarks for learning experiences that address the PLOs?

The PC are examples of current assignments that some of your faculty colleagues use to achieve and assess student learning. The PC provide an understanding about the kinds of assignments currently used by colleagues and the context within which to view your own assignments. Proficiency criteria are not benchmarks and are not to be used as benchmarks. They are examples only, not requirements.

Does Interstate Passport provide a checklist of ways students must demonstrate proficiency?

No. A checklist would dictate to each member institution exactly how students should be assessed. No part of Interstate Passport addresses or will address assessment methods because to do so is inconsistent with the essential design principle of the program – to recognize institutional individuality in the education of transfer students. The Interstate Passport program depends on faculty from many institutions to establish consensus PLOs and leaves it to the faculty at each institution to determine what their students are expected to do to demonstrate proficiency. Interstate Passport tracks the academic progress of students after they transfer to validate the effectiveness of the proficiency demonstrations.

What strategies do campuses use to verify that students are achieving proficiency with each PLO?

This varies because it is established independently on each campus. Although most campuses may have learning outcome proficiency demonstrations in specific courses or groups of courses, some institutions may choose to use their current GE program assessment and other methods that cut across courses or even occur outside of traditional course boundaries.

Does the Interstate Passport program define a minimum performance level on all components of the Passport block?

Yes. The currently agreed-upon minimum grade is a C or its equivalent for each course included in an institution’s Passport Block.

How is the Interstate Passport program being validated?

First, by consensus reached among participating faculty in developing the PLOs and PCs; second, by tracking student success after transfer; and third, through a pilot project in which faculty from multiple institutions voluntarily mapped the critical assignments in courses selected for their Passport Blocks to the PLOs.

How does InterstatePassport relate to accreditation?

All Interstate Passport institutions must be regionally accredited. The institutions are private and public, not-for-profit institutions in both the two-year and four-year sectors.

If we become an InterstatePassport institution, do we need to include all nine of the knowledge and skill areas in our curriculum?

Yes. The Passport is a block transfer of all nine knowledge and skill areas. It cannot be unpacked or offered as an incomplete package.

How does Interstate Passport relate to the faculty’s autonomy for their existing general education structure?

Interstate Passport is designed to provide greater faculty autonomy and flexibility because the curriculum is not constrained by course-by-course transfer agreements. As long as the PLOs are still included in the courses, the institution’s general education structure—and Passport Block—can change without requiring any renegotiation.

Am I expected to demonstrate how my syllabus, and what I require my students to do, aligns with the PLOs?

Not for the Interstate Passport program. Interstate Passport honors institutional individuality, and is based on the assumption that faculty at each institution has and will use its own processes to decide which courses and/or learning opportunities to include in its Passport Block and how they address the PLOs.

Are the Passport Learning Outcomes to be used for course curriculum design and revision?

The PLOs were not developed for this purpose; curriculum design and revision are not part of Interstate Passport. The PLOs are consensus statements of learning outcomes in nine knowledge and skills areas for block transfer of lower-division general education across multiple institutions. They are not intended to be a list of targeted and directly assessable outcomes for specific courses.

When we accept students with AA degrees from regionally accredited institutions, we consider their GE requirement met. How is the Passport different?

The Passport is a block transfer of proficiency with a set of learning outcomes – typically based on 32-38 semester credits, but occasionally as few as 30 or as many as 40, depending on the institution. An associate degree is usually 60 semester credits, and a discipline-specific AA includes prerequisites for majors and/or electives. A large majority of students who transfer do so without completing an AA, and many who transfer “early” do so to get on track in specific majors. Interstate Passport allows students to transfer to other network member institutions with the same LDGE efficiency as that of AA holders.

How does Interstate Passport address the range of credit by examination options (e.g., prior learning assessment, credit awarded for military service, AP, CLEP, etc.) that may be treated differently across institutions?

Each institution’s faculty determines how students can achieve proficiency with the PLOs, including whether learning experiences such as prior learning assessment, credit awarded for military service, AP, CLEP, etc. will be included in their institution’s Passport Block. The faculty determines if these learning experiences will support student success at the next level of their education, i.e., as the student moves from lower-division general education into upper division and major course work.

How does Interstate Passport address math competency, e.g., the fact that certain majors or institutions require a higher level of math than others?

Interstate Passport addresses only lower-division general education. It does not address prerequisites for entry into certain majors. The expectation is that receiving institutions may require Passport students to complete courses in addition to the Passport Block in cases where those courses are prerequisites for entry into or continuation in a particular major. It is expected that a Passport Block will include choices among courses that meet PLOs; for example, a student planning to major in chemistry might demonstrate proficiency in quantitative literacy by way of a more advanced math course than would some humanities majors.

How long must my institution commit to participating in the Interstate Passport Network?

Each institution must commit to participate for an initial term of five years.

Will our accreditors require that we assess Interstate Passport outcomes in addition to assessing our own General Education Outcomes?

Your faculty will map your institution’s student learning outcomes embedded in courses you already teach to the Passport Learning Outcomes and construct your Passport Block which may require specific combinations of those courses or an additional course or two. Freshman-entry students who earn a Passport will also have completed your own general education requirements. Passport transfer students who are admitted will be granted general education completion similar to other articulation agreements – e.g., with a General Education Core, at some institutions, or with an academic Associate Degree.

We do not require a course in Oral Communication. Must we include one in our Passport Block?

So far, there have been three approaches to meeting the oral communication outcomes. Some institutions already require a course in oral communication for completion of their own general education program. A few institutions require a course in oral communication for the Passport, but it is optional for their own general education. Some institutions recognize that they teach oral communication in a number of courses and are able to identify where and how those outcomes are met within one course or a combination of other courses within the Passport Block.

The cross-cutting skills – Critical Thinking and Teamwork – are not typically taught as courses. How are institutions approaching the outcomes in those areas?

Most institutions have found very similar learning outcomes as the Passport critical thinking outcomes in a great many courses, including mathematics, science, and philosophy, among others. Teamwork has been a little more challenging. But virtually every institution has found plenty of teamwork required in a multitude of general education courses, although not always recognized as such. Interestingly, science courses (e.g., labs and field trips) and fine arts courses (e.g., theater and musical productions) have proven to be the most common choices.

Does Interstate Passport guarantee admission to the four-year institution?

No. For example, a four-year institution may have higher requirements for overall GPA, or may admit directly to degree programs that require specific prerequisites. But if a university is a member of the Interstate Passport network, it would recognize completion of all lower-division general education requirements for all admitted students who bring a Passport.

What happens if a student transfers from one Interstate Passport institution to another prior to completing the Passport?

The receiving institution will articulate the student’s previous learning using course-by-course articulation or other equivalency methods to evaluate his/her transcript in the same way it evaluates students who transfer in without completing an AA or other credential. The student may go on to earn a Passport at the receiving institution by successfully completing the additional PLOs not yet achieved in that institution’s Passport Block.

If a sending institution’s Passport Block consists of 30 credit hours but the receiving institution’s block consists of 36 credit hours, how does the receiving institution address the difference?

The receiving institution awards the transfer student the number of credits earned for the Passport Block by the sending institution. In the above example, the receiving institution awards 30 credit hours. The student then completes the receiving institution’s required number of total credits for graduation, including six additional credits of electives or major- or minor-related course work.

If a sending institution’s Passport Block consists of 36 credit hours but the receiving institution’s block consists of 30 credit hours, how does the receiving institution address the difference?

The receiving institution awards the transfer student the number of credits earned for the Passport Block by the sending institution. In this example, the receiving institution awards 36 credit hours. The additional six credit hours are applied as electives, major prerequisites, or major courses, as determined by the receiving institution.

What happens if a student who enrolls in our institution with a Passport is not successful in a program?

The Interstate Passport program does not guarantee that every student will perform successfully upon transfer. It simply means that local faculty judged the student to be capable of successfully completing his/her academic program. If a particular Passport student does not succeed in upper-division course work, faculty should use the same policies they use with native students who do not do well in upper-division courses—no different treatment for Passport students.

How does a registrar know which students are earning a Passport?

Faculty at each institution construct their Passport Block—a list of courses and/or learning experiences by which a student can earn a Passport. The registrar will use this list to identify students in the SIS who have completed all of the courses/learning experiences with a minimum grade of C or its equivalent in each. The registrar will then ensure that these students are notified that they have earned a Passport.

How do students know if and when they have earned a Passport?

Registrars at Interstate Passport institutions are responsible for establishing a way to inform students when they have been awarded a Passport – such as email, degree audit system, document of completion, or other means of communication most relevant to their student population – within 60 days of the student’s completion of the Passport Block. Students should be advised that they can seek more information from their academic advisor, the campus catalog or website, and/or from the Interstate Passport website.

What happens when our faculty committee wants to change/add courses or learning experiences to our institution’s Passport Block?

Faculty may do so at any time as long as the new courses address the Passport Learning Outcomes. No articulation review is required. The registrar would make the appropriate changes in the institution’s SIS.

Does the Interstate Passport program define a minimum performance level on all components of the Passport block?

Yes. To earn a Passport, a student must have a minimum grade of “C” or it’s equivalent for each course or other learning experience included in an institution’s Passport Block.

How do registrars show on a student transcript that a Passport has been achieved?

The Task Force on Student Tracking, composed of registrars and IR staff from the pilot institutions, recommended three options for showing the Passport on student records. Institutions indicate that a student has achieved the Passport by choosing one or more of the following options, as preferred by the registrar:

  • Adding a comment on the transcript using a standard format. Example: “Interstate Passport Gen Ed awarded December 2016.”
  • Posting a pseudo course on the transcript.
  • Creating an additional record to accompany a transcript.
  • The Task Force weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each option, and concluded that a receiving institution will see a comment and/or a pseudo course, or a supplementary transcript from the sending institution. Also the registrar’s preference would take into consideration usual practice and the institution’s Student Information System.
How long does a Passport last?

Interstate Passport is about learning outcomes, not content, so its validity is indefinite, with some limited exceptions, determined by an institution, for coursework that may have “expired” or become outdated, for example, computer science.

What is the purpose of collecting performance data (GPA, grades, and the number of credits earned) of Passport students?

Particularly in these early days of Passport implementation, it’s important to be able to measure the progress of Passport students and compare it to non-Passport and native students. The data will indicate if sending institutions are preparing their students well – or not – and also if earning a Passport motivates students to persist to completion. The true success of the program is difficult to measure at this time, but as more institutions participate, the data pool will expand and show how Passport students perform, as well as the overall effectiveness of the Interstate Passport program.

What data will registrars submit?

At the conclusion of each term, registrars and institutional researchers submit a list of students who earned the Passport to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). They will also extract and submit academic progress data on de-identified transfer students for at least two terms immediately after transfer, as well as data on the institution’s de-identified native students for at least two terms after earning the Passport. Click the button below to see the required data elements to be submitted to NSC. Data are submitted to NSC via a secure FTP account provided to each Passport institution.

What will NSC do with the data submitted by the registrars?

NSC will tally the number of Passports awarded by each institution annually and create a composite report for the Passport Review Board. It will also run calculations on the de-identified student data supplied by the institutions to determine average GPA and credits earned at the receiving institutions for transfer students for at least two terms after transfer (for Passport students by sending institution and for non-Passport students as a group), as well as for the institution’s native students for at least two terms after earning the Passport. This aggregated data will be sorted and provided to each sending institution annually so they can know how well their former students performed. NSC will also provide the Passport Review Board with a report of aggregate data for use in evaluating the overall performance of the Interstate Passport program.

When we accept students with associate degrees from regionally accredited institutions, we consider their GE requirement met. How is Interstate Passport different?

Interstate Passport is a block transfer of proficiency with a set of learning outcomes – typically based on 32-38 semester credits, but occasionally as few as 30 or as many as 40, depending on the institution. An associate degree is usually 60 semester credits, and a discipline-specific associate degree includes prerequisites for a major and/or electives. A large majority of students who transfer do so without completing an associate degree, and many who transfer “early” do so to get on track in specific majors. Passport earning students can transfer to other Network member institutions with the same LDGE efficiency as that of associate degree holders.

How does the Interstate Passport address the range of credits by examination options (e.g., prior learning assessment, credit awarded for military service, AP, CLEP, etc.) that may be treated differently across institutions?

Each institution’s faculty determines how students can achieve proficiency with the PLOs, including whether learning experiences such as prior learning assessment, credit awarded for military service, AP, CLEP, etc. will be included in their institution’s Passport Block. The faculty determines if these learning experiences will support student success at the next level of education, i.e., as the student moves from lower-division general education into upper division and major course work.

How does Interstate Passport address math competency, e.g., the fact that certain majors or institutions require a higher level of math than others?

Interstate Passport addresses only lower-division general education. It does not address prerequisites for entry into certain majors. The expectation is that receiving institutions may require Passport students to complete courses in addition to the Passport Block in cases where those courses are prerequisites for entry into or continuation in a particular major. It is expected that a Passport Block will include choices among courses that meet PLOs; for example, a student planning to major in chemistry might demonstrate proficiency in quantitative literacy by way of a more advanced math course than would some humanities majors.

Does Interstate Passport guarantee admission to the four-year institution?

No. The four-year institution may have higher requirements for overall GPA, for example, or may admit directly to degree programs that require specific prerequisites. But if the university were a Passport institution, it would recognize completion of lower-division general education requirements in the nine Passport areas for all admitted students who bring a Passport.

What happens if a student transfers from one Network member institution to another prior to completing the Passport?

The receiving institution will articulate the student’s previous learning using course-by-course or other equivalency methods to evaluate his/her transcript in the same way it evaluates students who transfer in without completing an associate degree or other credential. The student may go on to earn a Passport at the receiving institution by successfully completing the additional PLOs not yet achieved in that institution’s Passport Block.

If a sending institution’s Passport Block consists of 30 credit hours but the receiving institution’s block consists of 36 credit hours, how does the receiving institution address the difference?

The receiving institution awards the transfer student the number of credits earned for the Passport Block by the sending institution. In the above example, the receiving institution awards 30 credit hours. The student then completes the receiving institution’s required number of total credits for graduation, including six additional credits of electives or major- or minor-related course work.

If a sending institution’s Passport Block consists of 36 credit hours but the receiving institution’s block consists of 30 credit hours, how does the receiving institution address the difference?

The receiving institution awards the transfer student the number of credits earned for the Passport Block by the sending institution. In this example, the receiving institution awards 36 credit hours. The additional six credit hours are applied as electives, major prerequisites, or major courses, as determined by the receiving institution.

What happens if a student who enrolls in our institution with a Passport is not successful in a program?

Interstate Passport does not guarantee that every student will perform successfully upon transfer. It simply means that local faculty judged the student to be capable of successfully completing his/her academic program. If a particular Passport student does not succeed in upper-division course work, faculty should use the same policies they use with native students who do not do well in upper-division courses—no different treatment for Passport students.

Is the PassportVerify service offered by NSC the same thing as DegreeVerify or separate?

PassportVerify is separate from NSC’s DegreeVerify service but built with similar specifications. Registrars will upload the list of students who earned the Passport at the conclusion of each term, just as they do for degrees with DegreeVerify. Registrars at other Passport institutions can then query NSC to find out which incoming transfer students have earned a Passport, the name of the institution that awarded it and the term it was awarded. A registrar will enter this information into the SIS system, ensuring that these students receive recognition for having completed their lower-division general education requirements in the Passport’s nine areas and flagging them for data collection as part of the Passport’s academic progress tracking.

What types of reports will NSC provide to Interstate Passport Network member institutions?

Once each academic year, NSC will compile and sort the de-identified student data received from the Interstate Passport network receiving institutions and generate institution-level reports with aggregated data on students from each Interstate Passport Network sending institution. The reports will show grades by percentage mean credits and average GPA on students who earned a Passport at the institution and, for comparison purposes, the academic progress of non-Passport students and native students. Institutions can use the information in these reports for continuous improvement efforts.

Must students apply to receive a Passport or is it handled automatically?

Students who satisfactorily complete the institution’s Passport Block are automatically granted a Passport, with it recorded on their transcript.

Will all students earn the Passport within the first two-years?

Some students—such as STEM students—may not earn the Passport until later in their studies but the vast majority will earn the Passport within the first two-years. For some students, especially part-time students, the Passport may serve as a milestone and persistence marker.

How is Interstate Passport being validated?

First, by consensus reached among participating faculty in developing the Passport Learning Outcomes and transfer-level proficiency criteria; second, by tracking student success after transfer; and third, by conducting a pilot with faculty from multiple institutions to map the assignments in courses selected for their Passport Blocks to the PLOs.

How does Interstate Passport relate to Pathways?

Each institution’s Passport Block contains a menu of courses or course options by which students can achieve the Passport Learning Outcomes (PLOs). The options lead to different pathways. Related to the PLOs in quantitative literacy for example, a student who plans to major in engineering would choose to take a calculus course whereas a student who intends to follow a psychology pathway would choose statistics. Although most pathway efforts today are intrastate, Interstate Passport provides an interstate gateway to pathways at institutions in other states as students can view other institution’s Passport Blocks to determine how the contents relate to pathways.

How does Interstate Passport relate to accreditation?

All Passport institutions must be regionally accredited. The institutions are private and public, not-for-profit institutions in both the two-year and four-year sectors.