Interstate Passport Briefing

Interstate Passport’s equity agenda

by Jane Sherman, Passport State Coordinator

Interstate Passport is specifically designed to save students time and money and to encourage them to transfer to complete a bachelor’s degree by certifying that they have achieved transfer-ready learning.

This combination of characteristics – economy and encouragement – is the core of Interstate Passport and embodies its entire purpose.  And while economy and encouragement are important to all students, they can be especially critical for the success of low-income and first-generation students, who are disproportionately Black, Hispanic, and Native American.

The Community College Research Center at Columbia University highlights the importance of making transfer more effective for underserved groups with following statistics:

“An analysis of Education Longitudinal Study (ELS: 2002-06) data shows that 44 percent of low-income students (those with family incomes of less than $25,000 per year) attend community colleges as their first college after high school, compared with only 15 percent of high-income students. Similarly, 38 percent of students whose parents did not graduate from college choose community colleges as their first institution, compared with 20 percent of students whose parents graduated from college.

Among college students who first enrolled in fall 2010, 48.5 percent of Black students and 50.8 percent of Hispanic students started at a two-year public college, compared with 35.6 percent of White students and 37.8 percent of Asian students (Shapiro et al., 2017).”

“In fall 2014, 56 percent of Hispanic undergraduates were enrolled at community colleges, while 44 percent of Black students and 39 percent of White students were at community colleges. (College Board, Trends in Community Colleges, 2016).”

“Just under 15 percent of students who started at community colleges in 2011 completed a degree at a four-year institution within six years. More than half . . .degree earners (52 percent) did not obtain a two-year degree before transferring (Shapiro et al., 2017). Asian and White students . . . earned bachelor’s degrees at higher rates than the overall average (24.2 percent and 20 percent respectively). Hispanic (12.7 percent) and Black students (8.6 percent) earned bachelor’s degrees at rates lower than the average (Shapiro et al., 2017).”

Not only does participation in the Interstate Passport Network assist students to transfer and progress toward a degree, but the Interstate Passport’s tracking function with the National Student Clearinghouse provides important data from the receiving institution back to the sending institution about the progress of its students after transfer. 

For at least two terms after transfer, the sending institution learns about the enrollment status and GPA of all Passport students it has sent to each receiving institution by gender, age, race-ethnicity, low income, veteran, first-generation, and pre-transfer credits and GPA.  Such extensive information, which in most cases will not be available elsewhere, can be invaluable in equity improvement efforts.

Interstate Passport is working to make a significant contribution to higher education’s equity agenda by scaling up the number of participating institutions both within states and across state lines.  Its goals are that all students will have access to the Passport benefits of economy and encouragement and that institutional equity efforts will benefit from the feedback data it provides.

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