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Interstate Passport Hosts Successful Workshop for Military and Veteran Affairs Advisors

Campus representatives, who play a vital role in serving active military and veteran students at member and prospective member institutions in the Interstate Passport Network, convened July 17-18 at WICHE in Boulder, CO, to discover how earning a Passport could help students from these mobile populations.

The purpose of this workshop was for attendees to learn about the current status of Interstate Passport and how the program can assist active military and veteran students through the transfer process. By training these 31 advisors to train other advisors on their campuses, staff hope to ensure that students across the Network are hearing a consistent message regarding the benefits that Interstate Passport provides. Other topics on the workshop program included the perspectives of Education Service Officers on some of the best practices for educating airmen; successful strategies and lessons learned in advising veterans, family members and active duty students; and unique programs and online offerings for military and veteran students available from participating institutions.

Noted presenters from the Air Force included Dr. R Joel Farrell, chief of academic analytics for Air University; Cheryl Holt, Ellsworth Air Force Base education services specialist; and Dr. William Kono, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam's senior civilian advisor.

Tony Flores, program coordinator of Utah State University's Veterans Resource Office, stated that "the workshop gave us the opportunity to focus on this highly mobile population that is often negatively affected by transfer and how earning a Passport provides an opportunity to minimize these effects. Membership in the Interstate Passport Network can assist veterans, service members, and their dependents at our institutions. The more that we can highlight this opportunity for our students and encourage expansion of the Network will be the key."

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Looking at transfer students in the changing higher education enrollment landscape

Why aren’t well qualified community college students transferring? Inside Higher Ed explores the variables affecting high achieving students at two-year institutions who are not transferring and how four-year institutions are adapting to the changing landscape of what defines a traditional student.

This past month several articles in the July issue of Insider Higher Ed addressed the changing landscape of student enrollment and the increasingly important role transfer students play.

  • Diversity is on the rise with transfer students in the University of California System. Though statistics for incoming freshmen diversity remain the same, according to the article, Transfers Up at University of California Campuses, there is a demonstrated increase in the percentage of minority students who transferred into the system. Read more
  • Why aren’t well qualified students transferring?  This article explores the variables affecting high achieving students at two-year institutions who are not transferring and how four-year institutions are adapting to the changing landscape of what defines a traditional student. Read more
  • Learn how the American Talent Initiative proposes to reach out to the high-achieving, low- and moderate-income community college transfer student population. Read more
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Does Student Success Stop at Our Gates?

by Micheal Torrens, Director of Institutional Research and Accreditation, Utah State University

As the director of institutional research and accreditation at Utah State University (USU), I’ve had a lot of time to work on, and think about, student success. Among a host of measures and indicators, I believe that there is wide agreement that graduation rates are a gold standard of success. Of course, there are a variety of ways to interpret student success based on degree attainment (e.g. “intended degree” vs. “achieved degree;” time-to-graduation/efficiency discussions, etc.), but there is not much dispute that this is a broad area where there should be almost perfect overlap between students’ and institutions’ goals and measurement of success.

Unfortunately, the current federal definition of “graduation rate” has created a set of perverse incentives. The most widely used measures of success, graduation rates at 100 percent and 150 percent of time, only count graduations for students that start and complete at the same institution. These are the rates that are used for almost all major ranking systems (e.g. U.S. News & World Report), they are used for state-level management and performance funding, and they are the most widely published federal statistics (e.g. IPEDS, College Navigator, etc.). Given that – according to National Student Clearinghouse data – 37 percent of today’s students transfer at least once, it strikes me that this is wrong and in desperate need of re-thinking and correction.

What does this set of incentives mean for public institutions in most states? I can tell you my experience from conferences, meeting rooms, and hall-way conversations: Discussions of how to “shape the class” to maximize 150 percent graduation rates. How to keep high-risk students or potential transfer students “out of the cohort.” Concerns about “incentives” that might encourage transfer of first-time, full-time students to other institutions. This has been of particular interest to me as I’ve had a chance to talk with institutions that have joined, or are considering joining, the Interstate Passport Network.

Two-year institutions are almost universally enthusiastic. They understand that some, perhaps many, of their students will transfer out short of completing their Associates degree, and they intuitively understand the benefits that Interstate Passport’s block transfer of general education learning outcomes provides for those students. Four-year institutions, on the other hand, are frequently less enthusiastic. Given the current state of assessment discussions at most four-year institutions, many are quick to understand and support the idea of measuring and transferring learning outcomes (vs. relying upon course titles, descriptions, syllabi, etc.), but then comes the inevitable question: Can we just accept Passports without having to issue them; won’t this encourage students to transfer away from our institution? I would like to convince you that this is wrong, and short-sighted in a couple of ways.

First, the discussion of student success is advancing rapidly at the state and federal levels, and it is easy for me to envision that we will be looking “beyond our college gate” within the next ten years. Non-profit and higher-ed supported initiatives, like Student Achievement Measure, are already looking beyond transfer to measure and credit subsequent enrollment and graduation at institutions other than the starting one. Recent articles in the New York Times, Forbes, and other publications suggest that there is a growing focus on the need for a better definition. The data on student graduation across institutions is already available from the National Student Clearinghouse, and it is getting more assertive about publishing those results nationally.

Second, my experience at USU suggests that that concern about the Interstate Passport encouraging transfer away from four-year institutions is overblown. Each institution is unique, but at USU – Utah’s land-grant public research institution – we have a fairly high proportion of undergraduates who get married before graduation. For students married at different ages, it’s not unusual for one spouse to need to leave campus to start work in a different area of the state, or a different state, while the other spouse continues to work on his or her degree. The transferability of credits from our institution to another, in those cases, has practically no impact upon the decision to move. A shortsighted view that only counts a student’s success while they are within our four walls is the exact opposite of what’s needed, and this is where I see the Interstate Passport program as a tremendous support for all of our students’ success.

For students that must transfer (because of job, family, or circumstances), for students that want to transfer (because of opportunity, fit, or changes in life plans), for members of the armed forces studying at our institutions (and subject to deployment or transfer), the transfer loss of credits, time, and money can be devastating. In some cases, it ends the dream of achieving a degree entirely. The Interstate Passport program is one tool to combat those losses, and to support our students’ success, no matter where they land. That is why I support it.