By Heather McKay, director and Renee Edwards, senior researcher, Education and Employment Research Center at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
The Education and Employment Research Center (EERC) at Rutgers University in New Jersey is the third party evaluator for the Interstate Passport’s Department of Education First in the World grant. As a part of the evaluation, EERC team members held focus group interviews with advising representatives from both Interstate Passport Network member institutions and prospective member institutions who were gathered for a train-the-trainer workshop in Boulder, Colorado in Fall 2018. The workshop focused on learning about the benefits of Interstate Passport, sharing best practices on training staff, and advising students regarding Interstate Passport. The majority of interviewees were supervisors of advising staff, and many were there to learn more so that they could offer training to their staff members after the workshop. We asked these attendees what they felt the benefits were of earning a Passport to their institutions and students. The most common themes that emerged from those conversations are noted below. These themes reflect the thoughts of those we spoke with about the role that the Interstate Passport may play at their institutions and for their students.
The Interstate Passport creates both awareness and an assurance for students that the work they put in to complete their general education courses will count towards their future education.
- Respondents spoke about the value of Interstate Passport for students and noted that it offered students an assurance that the work they put into their general education studies would not be wasted if they found that they had to transfer.
Interstate Passport may help change both the process and perceptions of transfer.
- Respondents discussed how the Interstate Passport might change both the perceptions and the process of transfer at their Institutions. Some respondents indicated that the value to both the institution and the student of being able to share that earning a Passport means that students who choose to transfer from or who transfer in from a Network institution will not have to retake general education courses. One respondent noted that saying “you don’t have to retake this” to students allows advisors to build a positive relationship with students that can also reflect well on the institution.
- Others talked about how Interstate Passport might change the way transfer is perceived by students. One respondent said that many four-year universities have a reputation as being “unfriendly” to transfer students and as having strict transfer policies. Respondents thought that Interstate Passport could play a role in alleviating these perceptions. Others talked about the role that Interstate Passport can play in making the transfer process easier. One person noted that most institutions have an interest in “smoothing the transfer process for any student”.
Interstate Passport may play a role in increasing student retention and persistence
- Many respondents commented how earning a passport may have the potential to serve as either an educational “milestone” or “momentum” point for students. One respondent said, “I think it serves as a momentum point, and it must serve as a connection point; success builds upon success, so I think from an institutional standpoint, retention and persistence could be positively affected by Interstate Passport.”
Interstate Passport aligns with other educational reforms like Guided Pathways.
- Nearly all interviewees mentioned a primary goal of their institution involved a shift to guided pathways. The work they did to build the Interstate Passport block and implement the Interstate Passport aligned with that institutional goal.
Through continued evaluation we hope to investigate some of the initial ideas about the possible benefits of the Interstate Passport to students and institutions.