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Interstate Passport Network Expansion Continues

The Interstate Passport Network is pleased to welcome 15 new member institutions that have joined in the last 60 days.

  • Two institutions in Alaska – University of Alaska Southeast and University of Alaska Fairbanks – became new members in May. The state of Alaska now has three member institutions in the IP Network (University of Alaska Anchorage joined in 2018).
  • The state of Wyoming also has a third Network member – Casper College, which joins Laramie County Community College and the University of Wyoming as a participating Passport institution.
  • College of Eastern Idaho joined the Network in June, becoming the second member from Idaho (along with North Idaho College).
  • Chaminade University of Honolulu, a private institution, joined the Network in June.
  • And we welcome Washington State University, our first member from the state of Washington.
  • Finally, the Los Angeles Community College District joined the Network right at press time. The District includes nine institutions: Los Angeles City College, East Los Angeles College, Los Angeles Harbor College, Los Angeles Mission College, Los Angeles Pierce College, Los Angeles Southwest College, Los Angeles Trade-Tech College, Los Angeles Valley College, and West Los Angeles College.

As of June 26, 2020, the Network has 55 two- and four-year institution members spanning 15 states with more institutions in the pipeline. We would like to extend a warm welcome to our new member institutions!

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An Interview with John Gardner of the John N. Gardner Institute

John Gardner serves as the chair and chief executive officer of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, which works with colleges and universities to strengthen their resolve and processes to undertake assessment and other improvement actions to increase student learning and retention. The Institute focuses its work on the use of a previously non-existent set of aspirational standards for improvement of the first-year experience, the transfer student experience, and the gateway course experiences of students at all undergraduate levels. The Institute was founded October 1999 as the Policy Center on the First Year of College. John is a long-time advocate, initiator and scholar of the American first-year and senior-year reform movements. (Full bio: https://www.jngi.org/full-bio-gardner)

Interstate Passport Chair Emeritus Mike Hillman recently interviewed John Gardner to talk about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student transfer, how the transfer landscape will change, and the role of Interstate Passport in fostering successful transfer in the wake of such dramatic change. 

Q1. Transfer students were facing an uphill battle to degree success before COVID-19. How does COVID-19 change the transfer landscape?

JG: Before the pandemic and shutdown, transfer student status was a significant component of the unfinished Civil Rights movement. Now everything is uncertain, especially the impact on employment prospects post-college. The lack of employment options and the burden of debt will further affect students’ selection of major, in addition to all their other important personal life decisions. Less money will be available from all sources to support them. It’s likely that most students will not return to a residential campus. Add to that the reduction in the variety of courses to be offered, and it will be more difficult to reach people for assistance. College budgets will have been cut resulting in a disproportionate impact on the availability of staff to support students. Plus students are experiencing a high level of stress from the distractions of protest, unleashed anger, and the negative political state of affairs.

More importantly, however, COVID-19 has potential to change the political balance of power and to elect a new President and Congress—and state legislatures—and thereby to increase the potential for free college movement and lowering costs of college attendance.

Q2. Many colleges have not been very supportive of online education or transfer students in the past. Online education may now be the only option available for large numbers of college students, forcing them into a transfer situation. Does COVID-19 create an opportunity for colleges to take a fresh look at their transfer policies?

JG: Yes, especially for the smaller privates who have empty seats anyway and which could offer real-time instruction as an alternative to online; there is still a huge demand for conventional instruction. But yes, demand for transfer surely is going to increase.

Institutions have to go beyond looking at transfer policies and instead look at policies and especially practices that are more likely to produce successful students. This question points to limitations of the concept of transfer that is inherent in this question—transfer success is not just a matter of policies. It is a matter more fundamentally of academic success. Colleges and universities will have to look at course redesign and alternative pedagogies.

But policies do matter. I would suggest schools conduct a comparison of policies for transfer vs. non-transfer students in the following areas:

  • Financial Aid
  • Housing
  • Deadlines for application
  • Access to internships and on-campus jobs
  • Quality of orientation and elective vs. required
  • Option for transfer student success seminars.

The previous cyclical pattern of community college enrollment has shown an inverse relationship to the health of economy. The problem now is that COVID-19 will likely drive even more students into community colleges, which have been drastically cut during the economic expansion. Now the lack of local municipal and state revenues will handicap the capacity to handle these students appropriately.

Q3. Your new book (The Transfer Experience: A Handbook for Creating a More Equitable and Successful Postsecondary System) will be released next year. Were you seeing particular themes around transfer policy or practice (success or failure) that led to the development of the book?

JG: Here’s what I was seeing:

The equity front had stalled due to setbacks in the last few years. I became aware of gross inequities with respect to priority and policies. Also I see prejudice against transfer students and those who teach them and the institutions that send them. Working with the First-year Experience Task Force especially and even at community colleges showed me the relatively low priority for transfer. There is tremendous institutional ignorance about these invisible students. Transfer students lack advocates.

Also the student success focus is disproportionately placed on first-year students, not at all on incoming transfer students. There are limitations of our conceptual framework for transfer, with an over-emphasis on mechanics of transfer and leadership from enrollment management and not academic advisors.

The impact of my own career, moving from focusing initially on first-year students to now focusing more broadly on “transition” – including transfer students – has brought me to this place.

Q4. Students face major transfer of credit problems even when they carefully plan transfer pathways. COVID-19 is forcing large numbers of students into unplanned pathways at a time when access to person-to-person transfer guidance is often limited. The Interstate Passport provides a faculty driven, outcomes-based structure to support general education transfer.  Can the Interstate Passport provide a useful framework for both students and institutions as students are forced into unplanned transfer situations?

JG: Yes, absolutely. The first question is, how can this option be taken advantage of by even more institutions and more students? Some other avenues to pursue are as follows.

  • The availability of Interstate Passport must be more effectively marketed to both institutions that are not members and to students at institutions that are members. Since the program became operational four years ago, member institutions have learned they need to enhance their own marketing efforts to make students aware of Interstate Passport.
  • Institutions in states with declining demographics and enrollments would especially benefit from the joining the Network, and marketing efforts there should bear fruit.
  • Private and liberal arts colleges are hungry for students. The Network does have a few private institutions as members, and, again, marketing is key in this area, particularly in states in which all system campuses are members.
  • Before we consider recruiting high school students and connecting the Passport to dual credit, we want to ensure that our member institutions – students, academic advisors, registrars, and communications reps – are fully supported and fully operational.
  • Interstate Passport in effect is presenting a national model for curricular components. In many cases member institutions retooled parts of their general education curriculum or their institutional learning outcomes as they assembled their Passport Blocks. The work undertaken by faculty members to create the Passport Learning Outcomes was comprehensive and rigorous, providing a solid foundation for institutions’ Passport Blocks and general education curriculum.
  • Member institutions that have developed pathways within the general education curriculum have incorporated the Passport Learning Outcomes in these efforts. The beginning courses of a pathway often reside within an institution’s lower-division general education curriculum, which includes those courses that make up the institution’s Passport Block. Academic advisors can recommend courses to students on a selected pathway so that they earn a Passport on their way to a degree.
  • If taking courses to fulfill a Passport Block, i.e., lower-division general education courses that impart the Passport Learning Outcomes, is really going to be a means to increase degree attainment, it matters not only what courses are in the Passport but whether or not those courses have been redesigned to meet any pedagogical and design components that could be stipulated and standardized. An examination of institutions’ Passport Block courses for these components might be pursued in the future.
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Meet the Passport State Facilitator for Alaska

Dan Kline Headshot

Dan Kline, Passport State Facilitator for the state of Alaska, is a professor of English and director of general education at the University of Alaska Anchorage, which became a member of the Interstate Passport Network in 2018. Dan was instrumental in shepherding UAA through the application process; he also serves as the institution liaison for UAA. He has lived and worked in Alaska since 1997.

UAA is an open-access institution and one of three regional universities in the state. It is comprised of the Anchorage campus plus four community campuses. The two other universities in the state – UA Fairbanks and UA Southeast – just became members of the IP Network this spring (with assistance from Dan as well). Each of the three state universities is comprised of a four-year campus and a number of community colleges in each region – a merger that took place in 1986. This structure, while not without its distinct challenges, has provided for some consistency and stability in the higher education system in Alaska.

As the director of general education Dan oversees alignment of the curriculum and course offerings in general education and works to achieve consistency across all campuses – an objective that has been aided by the Passport Learning Outcomes. Dan notes that, “General education is now becoming the mark of what a UAA graduate is. It has become the place where we can articulate the distinctiveness of UAA students.”

Now that all campuses in the state university system will award and accept the Passport, the general education curriculum across the state is aligned with the Passport outcomes. And with the whole system participating in the Passport Network, the Banner student information system will be programmed to record and report data on Passport students.

Like in other states before the Interstate Passport, students who transferred between campuses in Alaska had their credits accepted. Now Alaska students will be able to transfer to Network member institutions in other states and receive credit for completed coursework. Dan is pleased that this will be especially beneficial for the large military population in Alaska (stationed at nine bases across the state) along with the Network membership of the Community College of the Air Force.

In fall 2018 UAA enacted an Alaska Native general education requirement that requires all incoming UAA students to take an Alaska Native-themed course. UAA is the first institution in the state system – and perhaps the first public institution in the country – to have an indigenous study requirement as part of general education. A diversity and inclusion requirement will be rolled out this coming fall. The importance of this new requirement cannot be overstated. There are 224 federally recognized tribes and 20 indigenous languages spoken in the state. A majority of Alaska Natives still live on their original homelands, and one in four students coming through the Anchorage School District is Alaska Native. Part of UAA’s mission is to integrate indigenous perspectives into a variety of educational settings, and to provide education and opportunities for Alaska Natives through its Alaska Native Studies Council and through Alaska Native programs and resources. 

Daniel T. Kline is a professor of English and director of general education at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he specializes in medieval literature and culture, literary theory, and digital medievalism. His formal research concerns children, violence, and ethics in late-medieval England and neo-medievalism and digital gaming. Recent publications include Digital Gaming Re-Imagines the Middle Ages, (Routledge, 2014), and he is co-editor of the recently launched Open Access Companion to Chaucer’s Canterbury tales (https://opencanterburytales.dsl.lsu.edu/).

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The Latest News on Student Transfer

1. Why so few students transfer from community colleges to four-year universities

By Jill Barshay, Hechinger Report, June 1, 2020

This article summarizes the results of research conducted in California on why so many students who begin college at community colleges do not transfer to four-year institutions – despite intentions to do so – or earn a bachelor’s degree. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, only 13 percent of two-year students who transfer achieve a bachelor’s degree six years later.

Researchers identified several factors that impede transfer to a four-year institution:

  • Lack of money: many community college students are unaware of scholarship and financial aid programs at four-year institutions.
  • Family and work obligations: community college students frequently are employed full- or part-time, and may have children to care for – circumstances that can interfere with class schedules and commutes.
  • Bureaucracy and red tape: ensuring that transcripts and other documents are submitted on time should not be so challenging, Even so, students encountered problems such as proper application of AP credits and failure to submit a “partial transcript” of mid-year coursework – issues that students didn’t know about until their applications were denied.
  • Advocacy and support: community college students benefit enormously from advisors or faculty members who support them in the transfer process, making them aware of deadlines and specific documents and requirements needed to transfer. The researchers found that many students were unaware of the need for such assistance.
  • Math: researchers found that a high number of community college students intending to transfer were missing a college-level math class. Students may not have progressed from remedial math courses or might have suffered from “math anxiety“ about taking a college math course.

The research report from The RP Group, published in May 2020, is available here:  “Students Speak Their Truth About Transfer: What They Need to Get Through the Gate


Why Covid-19 Could Force Colleges to Fix Their Transfer Problems

By Katherine Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 22, 2020

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education examines why community colleges and regional universities are expecting an influx of transfer students this fall as many students will not return to their out-of-state institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now schools have the chance to improve their policies and procedures to remove roadblocks to successful transfer. Most importantly, students need support and guidance on both sides of the transfer equation. Without personal and ongoing advising, students could lose credits and fall off track. Students need information on which credits will apply, which courses are major requirements, and deadlines – and they need to know who to contact for assistance. Institutions must put their best foot forward – working to keep their new students, and keeping the door open for students who transfer out but may come back in the future.


3. Supporting Transfer to Private Colleges

by Madeline St. Amour, Inside Higher Ed, June 11, 2020

Inside Higher Ed reviews a report from Ithaka S+R on how private institutions can and should streamline their transfer processes. This fall many students are expected to enroll in local community colleges instead of returning to four-year campuses. In the hopes of recruiting back some of those students, private institutions, which have low graduation rates for community college transfer students, would do well to insure that transfer processes are student-centered and transparent. Institutions may also consider collaborating with other schools on major-specific pathways and prerequisites.


 4. Increasing the Transfer Inquiry Pool

National Association of College Admission Counseling, Journal of College Admission, Spring 2020

Often transfer students are overlooked as part of an institution’s entering class. They’re considered a “bonus,” not a recruitment target. In this article from NACAC, three admission leaders from Colorado share best practices for how admissions officers can capture transfer students and ensure their success.

Recommendations include:

  • Identify target audience
  • Allow students to easily opt into the transfer inquiry pool and easily reactivate their application
  • Create guided pathways
  • Collect data at every turn
  • Engage in collaborative partnerships
  • Continuously improve policies and practices.

5. While focus is on fall, students’ choices about college will have a far longer impact

By Jon Marcus, Hechinger Report, May 29, 2020

This article from The Hechinger Report offers an eye-opening assessment of the long-range ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic for students across the nation. In recent surveys, high school graduates have indicated that they will delay their education, take time off, enroll in community college, or attend college part time. However, the impact of any of these choices over the long term can easily derail students’ plans and dreams for earning a college degree. And that outcome will ripple through the job market, business and industry, and the economic health of the country – and further widen the nation’s socioeconomic divide.

Students who delay entering college often never attend. Students switching to community college may add two years to their time to degree. Many students start at community college with intentions to transfer to a four-year institution, but only 13 percent of students achieve that goal. And studying part-time significantly lowers success rates. Institutions may see graduation and drop-out rates decrease.

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6. Why Some State Universities Are Seeing an Influx

By Anemona Hartocollis, The New York Times, June 22, 2020

Small and rural states have always faced losing their high school graduates – very often their best and brightest – to more prestigious out-of-state colleges and universities. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has upended plans for thousands of students who may have expected to start college away from home. Now states that have long seen their top students lured away are seeing a competitive edge. This New York Times article focuses on West Virginia State University in Morgantown and the efforts by its president to recruit native students and encourage them to attend college and earn a degree in their home state. A number of institutions in other states as well are making efforts to recruit native high school graduates by offering scholarships, expedited application review and volunteer opportunities. In-state tuition is a great incentive as well.

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Tips from the Network

As students are deciding whether to enroll or transfer to stay close to home for Fall 2020, North Idaho College has launched a local social media campaign that also features the benefits of Interstate Passport, including the YouTube video below.

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American Council on Education to use Passport Learning Outcomes as a Workforce Framework

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and the American Council on Education announce a collaboration to help more students with prior learning attain high-quality postsecondary credentials. WICHE’s Interstate Passport Network®, with 46 members in 15 states, enables block transfer of completed lower-division general education among participating institutions based on an agreed upon set of learning outcomes. Basing transfer articulation on the 63 Passport Learning Outcomes (PLOs), rather than on matching specific courses and credits, can help reduce credit loss, saving students time and money and increasing their chances of graduating. The discipline specific learning outcomes were developed by multi-state faculty teams convened by WICHE. Now, ACE will also use the PLOs as a framework in evaluating and recommending college credit for training, certifications, and exams offered by hundreds of providers and major employers.

For over 60 years, using an industry standard process, ACE’s faculty panels have evaluated learning that happens outside of the formal college setting and issued recommendations for academic credit. Going forward, ACE will use the PLOs as a framework for evaluating general education, college-level knowledge and skills embedded in some of these extra-institutional learning opportunities. The specific PLOs achieved by a learner will appear on a new digital transcript on Credly’s Acclaim platform, which institutions can use to translate students’ documented knowledge and skills into courses for general education credit. The PLOs provide colleges and universities with more depth as to what ACE transcript holders know and are able to do as they consider credit recommendations. 

“Post-traditional learners face an uphill battle towards their degree goals when institutions are unable to recognize their prior learning. The Passport Learning Outcomes are a great example of a framework that could become the common language for general education to help a wider array of students get the credit they’ve earned for what they know, regardless of where they learned it,” said Louis Soares, ACE chief learning and innovation officer. 

Students who receive credit for prior learning graduate at higher rates, which results in more credits taken from their chosen institutions. This benefit holds true across racial/ethnic populations. Today more than ever, all students need flexible pathways to help them restart their careers, resume interrupted educational journeys, or skill up for new opportunities.

“Interstate Passport is a game changer on many levels with the WICHE/ACE collaboration extending its benefits even further than we had hoped,” said Demaree Michelau, WICHE president. “With the significant economic downturn and impacts of COVID-19 having disproportionate adverse impacts on underserved students and students of color, this collaboration has great potential to not only mitigate some of the negative effects of the pandemic, but we also expect that it will go further and improve outcomes for vulnerable populations.”

The Passport Learning Outcomes can serve as a common language describing knowledge and skill attainment that happens in different contexts, building connections between workforce and academia so that students can move more easily between them without losing ground on the journey.

The Passport Learning Outcomes and ACE digital transcripts were developed with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and Lumina Foundation. For more information, visit ACE’s Learning Evaluation and the WICHE Interstate Passport program.