IN GROUNDBREAKING INITIATIVE 28,000 STUDENTS EARN INTERSTATE PASSPORTS IN 2016-17 

Program to save money and prevent headaches for college transfer students

Nearly four in 10 college students will transfer institutions at least once during their college careers, and almost a quarter of those will enroll in an institution in another state, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse. Until now, transferring between schools – especially across state lines – has been made more difficult and expensive by lengthy credit evaluation processes and loss of credit already earned.

Now, Interstate Passport, a groundbreaking program designed to expand nationwide, will help college students save time and money through seamless college transfers based on a set of learning outcomes rather than on specific courses and credits. Participating institutions agree on learning outcomes on the front end rather than credit evaluation on the back end of the transfer process.

Institutions participating in the Interstate Passport Network award Passports – which are confirmations of a student’s successful completion of lower-division general education requirements, indicated on a student’s transcript – to all students who achieve the Passport Learning Outcomes. When students with Passports are admitted to other Network member institutions, their lower-division general education coursework transfers as a completed block.

In its inaugural academic year (2016-17), nearly 28,000 students at 16 participating institutions earned Passports, simplifying the transfer process – by eliminating the unnecessary repetition of learning already achieved – for those who opt to transfer after admission to any member institutions.

“Students face many barriers when they try to transfer from one institution to another, especially when they transfer to an institution in a different state,” said Patricia Shea, director of Academic Leadership Initiatives for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), which is managing the network. “Interstate Passport was created by a team of academic leaders and faculty from colleges and universities in multiple states to make the college transfer process more economical, efficient and seamless for students. It is also designed to improve institution performance metrics by increasing student completion rates.”

“Hawaii, as with many states, is embarking on a guided pathways strategy; and this work is overdue. But this effort will not help the thousands of students who cross state lines to finish their education,” said Peter Quigley, associate vice president of academic affairs for the University of Hawaii System and a co-chair of the Interstate Passport Review Board. “Half of Hawaii’s community college transfer students go out of state. We care about their degree completion and know that Interstate Passport will provide them with an easier and more welcoming transfer process. And, the process of establishing two-to-four-year transfer expectations begins inside each state and helps start much needed conversations at home regarding general education outcomes.”

Even for students who don’t transfer, earning a Passport can be beneficial. Because of its specifically defined learning outcomes, the Passport can become a widely recognizable documented completion benchmark from which employers can gauge a prospect’s skill level and readiness for a job.

Participation in Interstate Passport Network also promises its member institutions a competitive advantage. “We’ve seen declines in students entering our system, which is why we’re so interested in the Interstate Passport Network,” said Paul Turman, system vice president for academic affairs, South Dakota Board of Regents and co-chair of the Interstate Passport Review Board. “Making transfers easier is a huge benefit that will help us attract and retain more students in our state.”

Currently, 24 colleges and universities are members of the nationwide Interstate Passport Network, with more institutions exploring participation. As some students awarded Passports in the first year begin to transfer, and as others join them in subsequent years, its benefits will become apparent in the data. Wider early adoption by institutions and states would mean broader availability and more choices for students, as well as building a deeper database to understand and improve interstate transfer. To encourage early adoption, the first 100 institutions can join the Interstate Passport Network at no cost for the first five years, after which institutions will pay modest annual dues.