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Academic Success of Passport Students Post-Transfer

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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UPDATE! State Policies on Transfer and Articulation

We reported on the Education Commission of the States’ 50-State Comparison: Transfer and Articulation Policies in our last newsletter. This month ECS has released an updated report:

  • At least 30 states have policies requiring a transferable core of lower-division courses and statewide guaranteed transfer of an associate degree (no change since 2018).
  • Now, 22 states have reverse transfer policies set in legislation or board policy (an increase of five since 2018).
  • Now, an additional 18 states provide reverse transfer opportunities outside of policy, including through institutional agreements, MOUs and statewide programs.
  • Only 17 states have statewide common-course numbering used at all public postsecondary institution for lower-division courses (no change since 2018).

The report notes that many states are continuing to refine statewide transfer policies toward increasing student completion rates.

The report compares all 50 states in four transfer metrics: (1) transferable core of lower-division courses; (2) statewide common-course numbering; (3) stateside guaranteed transfer of an associate degree; and (4) statewide reverse transfer. The document presents tables showing how all states approach these policies as well as individual state profiles.

Now, eight states have policies in all four metrics: CO, FL, ID, KS, LA, MO, NV and TN (Idaho and Louisiana added); and seven states have no policies in the four areas: CT, DE, NE, NH, NY, PR, and VT (Puerto Rico added). The rest of the states have some but not all of the policies in statute, sometimes because of more than one higher education system within the state, i.e., different system policies, or because of non-alignment with the community college system. In many states, even if a transfer policy is not in statute, agreements are in place between specific institutions or systems within a state that permit transfer of lower-division courses, reverse transfer, or guarantee transfer of an associate degree.

50-State Comparison: Transfer and Articulation Policies

Education Commissions of the States, February 2020

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Student Transfer in the News

4-year college costs push minorities into community colleges

By MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY - Associated Press - Sunday, January 19, 2020, WASHINGTON TIMES

As many low-income minority students increasingly are leaving four-year institutions due to rising tuition costs and lack of supports, one college in Palatine, Illinois is offering students a second chance. Harper College, like many community colleges, is positioned uniquely to help these students through career path programs tailored to what local employers need. Minority students are offered tuition assistance, mentoring and networking.

“Nearly a third of students at suburban community colleges come from low-income families and receive assistance through federal Pell grants and state Monetary Award Program grants. Many colleges have adopted programs and policies that help black, Latino and low-income students complete degree programs and transfer to four-year universities.”


A goal met: More UNC System students are graduating within 5 years than ever before

By KATE MURPHY - January 16, 2020, RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER

The University of North Carolina System is reporting that more students are graduating from its universities within five years than ever before, and the upward progress is expected to continue. The five-year graduation rate across the UNC System hit 71 percent in 2018 after a steady increase over the past five years. Enrolling more transfer students is one of the key reasons for the improved graduation rates, along with improved advising on campus and setting new admissions requirements. “Academic advising helps students figure out what they should major in, the classes they need to take and the shortest path to their degree. The system prioritized enrolling transfer students and making sure they get credit for the classes they took, particularly at community colleges across the state.”


Poaching Enrolled Students: Once Taboo, Now Okay

By ERIC HOOVER – February 5, 2020, CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Findings from a new report indicate that about one third of enrollment leaders “said they were considering trying to poach other colleges’ students.” The report by consulting firm EAB, Enrollment Strategy After the NACAC Vote, describes how colleges are responding to recent changes in the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s ethics code. Institutions are offering transfer incentives to students who were previously admitted but who ended up attending other four-year colleges. A small percentage of respondents said they were considering going after students enrolled elsewhere, whether or not they had applied or been admitted in the first place. “The transfer market is huge and ever churning.” According to the report, 28 percent of students would consider another college that offered to transfer all credits from their current institution.


How the skills gap is changing the degree path

By MIKHAIL ZINSHTEYN – February 17, 2020, EDUCATION DIVE

This articles showcases several institutions that are reshaping the degree pathway, offering new ways to meet the needs of students and the economy or risk losing out on the huge future market for lifelong learning. Some are strengthening transfer pathways between two- and four-year schools, while others are bringing industry-recognized credentials into the curriculum sooner than they have in the past. In some cases, more weight is put on training experiences.

  • The University System of Georgia is creating a new type of two-year degree that requires students to take internships and upper-division courses — demands typically not found in associate degrees. Georgia is calling these "nexus" degrees.
  • Colorado Mesa University is home to Western Colorado Community College, a rare pairing that gives students at both schools access to short-term credentials and transfer pathways to bachelor's degrees. Courses taken at the community college level will be accepted at the four-year level if they are in the same discipline. 
  • BYU-Pathway Worldwide, part of a network of institutions that includes Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, requires students to earn short-term certificates en route to an associate or bachelor's degree. The model increases the likelihood that students who don't make it all the way to a bachelor's can at least show employers a certificate.

UC freshmen applications dip for a second straight year. But why?

By TERESA WATANABE – February 5, 2020, LOS ANGELES TIMES

The Los Angeles Times reports that freshman applications to the University of California system have dropped by 5.4 percent since 2018, however, transfer applications have increased by 4.8 percent. The growing competition to be accepted and high tuition costs have many students choosing more affordable community colleges. Many students do not even consider applying to UC institutions, but do make plans to transfer after one or two years at another institution. At UCLA, for example, the number of applications for fall 2020 from prospective California transfer students increased by 12.5 percent over 2018.


Underserved Community College Students and the Complexity of STEM Transfer

By ELIZABETH APPLE MEZA – December 2019, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, COMMUNITY COLLEGE RESEARCH INITIATIVES

This research report from the University of Washington Community College Research Initiatives examines underserved community college students of color, women, and first-generation students and how well they are prepared and supported to transfer and graduate in a STEM major. The study identified gaps in knowledge around transfer and STEM-specific major requirements, which indicates a need to build more knowledge about STEM-major transfer requirements and processes among community college students as well as advisors and STEM faculty so they can better inform students of transfer pathways.

The study found that despite high levels of confidence about transferring to a STEM program at a four-year institution, students were, in fact, pretty unaware of the transfer requirements such as rigorous admission requirements for STEM majors. Most students had not spoken with transfer representatives prior to applying. Students were also unaware of capacity-constrained majors at some four-year institutions, and thus the very competitive environment for applicants. The report notes “the need to strengthen transfer partnerships between two-year and four-year institutions in support of community college students who aspire to a STEM baccalaureate degree.”

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SPOTLIGHT: The role of the registrar and Interstate Passport

Photo of LaDawn Miera
LaDawn Miera, assistant registrar, Salt Lake Community College

LaDawn Miera, Assistant Registrar at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), has been an integral player in the development of Interstate Passport since its inception. As an advisory committee member with other registrars and institutional researchers, Miera helped to identify the key objectives for developing the template and process for collecting and submitting data on Passport students. SLCC is one of the founding member institutions of the program, so she has a unique perspective on the establishment and implementation of Interstate Passport. For her, the Passport is “the first successful attempt of transferring a credential that is the same across the board.” This effort requires a delicate balance of recognizing institutional autonomy and policy and also honoring the institution’s commitment to the Interstate Passport Network and to students.

Miera feels lucky to have been a part of the program since the beginning, which has allowed her and her coworkers to be adaptable in accommodating Interstate Passport as it has evolved, as well as managing the program through internal changes. She notes the critical importance of documenting – and updating – all of the tasks and procedures for implementing Interstate Passport by her department, as well as all others with various responsibilities for the program, i.e., institutional research, IT, academic affairs, advising, and campus marketing. Once everything is in place the process works as intended. Currently, students are notified, and it is also notated on their transcript when they have earned a Passport. In addition, SLCC is taking active steps to improve student awareness about the benefits of earning a Passport as students look to transfer.

We are grateful to Miera for her work on Interstate Passport these past years, and fortunate to have her expertise and commitment to the program.

Bio: LaDawn Miera, Assistant Registrar recently celebrated 20 years at Salt Lake Community College. Fourteen of those years have been managing the incoming transfer and articulation process at SLCC. During a brief hiatus from higher education, Miera utilized her marketing and management B.S. by dabbling in hotel management. She had the pleasure of experiencing the 2002 Winter Olympics during that time as an event planner and liaison to several corporate partners. Miera has served on various academic committees and boards, including UACRAO, PACRAO, Utah NASPA, and the Interstate Passport Registrar and Institutional Researcher Advisory Committee.


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Interstate Passport Annual Report

The 2018-19 Interstate Passport Annual Report is now available! The Passport Review Board recently approved the Interstate Passport 2018-2019 Annual Report, which provides a thorough update on the program’s accomplishments during its third year of implementation. Topics covered include the expansion of the Network, marketing campaign and collateral, an analysis of early Academic Progress Tracking data, and future goals for the program.

The full report can be found here.

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Interstate Passport featured in Change Magazine

Interstate Passport is featured in the January 28, 2020 issue of Change Magazine. In “The General Education Transfer Highway,” Pat Shea and Jane Sherman make a solid case for utilizing the Passport as a vehicle for completing lower-division general education and, importantly, preparing students for upper division coursework. The authors cite research on the need for a more efficient transfer mechanism that truly addresses the needs and experiences of transfer students, and offer the Passport as a very workable solution. Institutions are able to maintain autonomy over their curriculum; Interstate Passport provides quality assurance measures; and institutions receive regular progress reports on how their students perform after transferring with a Passport. The value of Interstate Passport will continue to grow as more institutions join the Network.

Read the Change Magazine article here.