Interstate Passport Briefing

Call to Action: Help Fix Transfer for Students Nationwide

David Coleman, Chief Executive Officer of The College Board, has recently joined over 200 higher education leaders of institutions, national organizations, associations, and accrediting agencies in signing WICHE’s Call to Action to help fix transfer for students nationwide. Interstate Passport issued this call last July in the midst of the COVID pandemic, as higher education institutions were suffering stark economic and enrollment declines. We continue to receive endorsements and new signatories to the initiative as the ramifications of the pandemic to transfer students continue to become apparent. The advisory group that oversees this effort – Colleagues for Interstate Passport’s Future – is co-chaired by Samuel Gingerich, former provost and executive vice chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage, and Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District. The group meets quarterly to develop and implement strategies for expanding and solidifying Passport membership and to address the most pressing transfer issues facing colleges and universities. See the list of members of the advisory group and supporters of the Call to Action:

Interstate Passport Briefing

COVID-19: Transfer, Mobility and Progress, First Look Spring 2021

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, April 21, 2021

This latest report from the National Student Clearinghouse is the third in a series that examines transfer patterns since the COVID-19 pandemic started last year. Data show that, two months into the spring term, transfer enrollment is down 7.9 percent, a decline 3.8 times larger than last spring, which declined 2.1 percent. Declines are especially among community colleges with drop of 15.2 percent.


  • Students are less mobile along all transfer pathways, except for upward transfer where students grew three percent this spring over pre-pandemic levels. Both reverse and lateral transfer suffered steep enrollment declines of 21 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively.
  • Transfer enrollment decline is more evident among White and Black students than their Hispanic and Asian peers. Hispanic transfer enrollment currently shows the strongest growth in the public four-year sector.
  • With gender disparities growing across all age groups, transfer declines are larger for men, especially in upward transfer.
  • Transfer declined for continuing students at twice the rate of returning students this spring (-10.2 percent and -4.9 percent, respectively, from a year ago). Continuing students transferring to community colleges decreased 20.8 percent, ten times the pre-pandemic rate of decline.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center launched this series on transfer immediately after colleges and universities shuttered campuses due to the pandemic last year. The data paint a clear picture of how different types of students and institutions have fared in the wake of school closures and job losses, and the resultant economic downturn.

Read the full report here.

Interstate Passport Briefing

Smoothing the Bumps in the Road: How to Better Articulate Articulation

This webinar presentation, part of the 2021-20 Alliance and Forum annual meeting virtual series, took place April 9, 2021. The session was moderated by Eric Leshinskie, Interim Provost at Maricopa Community Colleges and featured Aisha Lowe, Vice Chancellor of Educational Services, California Community Colleges; Michelle Marks, Chancellor, University of Colorado Denver; and Doug Shapiro, Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The panelists focused on strategies that all institutions can implement to improve the transfer process between community colleges and four-year institutions.

Equity Gaps Persist. Doug Shapiro presented the data compiled by NSC over the past year on enrollment and transfer rates, which are reported in NSC’s latest report, COVID-19: Transfer, Mobility and Progress, First Look Spring 2021. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic defied expectations, with a slight decrease in enrollment among four-year institutions but a huge drop at community colleges. Shapiro noted that one of the most troubling effects of the pandemic is that it exposed and exacerbated the equity gaps that have always existed throughout our higher education system. The data reflect a view of transfer as students in distress. More disadvantaged students fell further behind. The existing gaps in equity and diversity in access to a bachelor’s degree, particularly for community college students, has grown wider during the pandemic.

Redesign higher education with transfer in mind. Michelle Marks of University of Colorado Denver (UCD) echoed this development: the impact of the pandemic on historically disadvantaged students is very real. Students have dropped out or stopped out primarily due to health or financial concerns – even before the pandemic college was becoming unaffordable for many students. Half of the students at UCD are transfers, aiming for that pathway to a bachelor’s degree. But the programs and efforts to streamline transfer have not been enough. As a member of the ACE task force on transfer, Marks shared the task force’s recommendations for improving transfer: prioritize credit for higher learning; improve transcript evaluation policies; utilize technology for efficiency and consistency; communicate clearly what credits will transfer and toward which degree pathway; assure quality advising; and partner with both sending and receiving institutions. Most importantly, embed transfer into the culture of higher education. Approach transfer from the perspective of the student. Create a system that values the range of experiences that students bring, from multiple institutions. Higher education institutions demonstrated adaptability when the pandemic struck. Marks urged institutions to use that innovation and strength in ways that will support all student educational journeys.

Innovation at the System Level. Aisha Lowe of the California Community Colleges (CCC) described the efforts underway to improve transfer in the vast CCC system of 2.1 million students attending 116 colleges. Rather than an initiative, guided pathways is the framework for aligning resources and programs to put students first. In place for four years, the framework operates under a set of vision goals and commitments. The system is preparing to shift to a student-centered funding formula, which will be dependent on the outcomes that an institution is achieving. In addition, the system has a number of transfer partners – state, regional and online – with transfer pathways articulated for each partner. Lowe reported that significant progress has been made in the number of students that earn AA degrees and transfer. But she noted that students still had to manage a complex system. More work is needed to streamline the hand-off to the system’s four-year partners.

Lowe also noted that students are not consulted enough on their experiences, goals and problems. Shapiro and Marks both agreed whole-heartedly. Their advice: listen to students. Reach out to them proactively with questions as well as information, advice and guidance. Lowe added that an ideological mind-shift is needed, particularly for state systems, one in which all institutions see all students as our students. The lines of demarcation between different institutions can be erased so that innovative policies can be implemented for all students.

The one-hour webinar is available on YouTube at

Interstate Passport Briefing

SPOTLIGHT: Beverly Meinzer, University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville (UACCB)

Beverly Meinzer serves as the Institutional Liaison for the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, and as the Passport State Facilitator for the state of Arkansas. She teaches Chemistry I and II and is the only full-time instructor in Physical Sciences. Beverly also helps with student orientation and serves on various campus committees. She has been at the college for 18 years.

UACCB was the first institution outside of the Rocky Mountain region to join the Interstate Passport Network, and Beverly has been involved every step of the way. She worked with faculty to map the Passport Learning Outcomes to the college’s learning outcomes and to identify proficiency criteria that faculty members use in their lessons.

Batesville is the oldest existing city in the state of Arkansas with a population today of 10,000 people. The school enrolls approximately 1,000 students and since January 2021, classes have been held on campus following social distancing guidelines. The college has been fortunate in not having too many students drop out since the pandemic started last year.

Like many Passport institutions, UACCB wants to improve its communication with students about the Interstate Passport and what it means for students who achieve it. Beverly related that a student who received a letter indicating she had earned the Passport was surprised – she didn’t know anything about the Passport. But she was very pleased to know she had earned it and more confident as a result. Especially in a rural community likes Batesville, students want their college courses and credentials to prepare them for good jobs. Beverly has heard from the four-year institutions that UACCB students are, in fact, very prepared. Beverly will continue to work with the advising center to promote the Passport and stress that the knowledge and skills provided through the coursework are extremely valuable to students who transfer to a four-year institution or seek employment.

Bio: Beverly Meinzer earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Chemistry at Arkansas (Lyon) College, and a Master of Science in Chemistry at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She is a chemistry faculty member at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, Arkansas (UACCB). At UACCB, Beverly is also active on campus committees, having served on the Curriculum and Faculty Affairs Committees. Previously, she did adjunct work at Jackson State Community College in Jackson, TN and worked for the State of Tennessee Department of Health Laboratory.

Interstate Passport Briefing

Transfer in the News

Reimagining Transfer for Student Success: The National Task Force on the Transfer and Award of Credit

The American Council on Education | March 22, 2021

Connecting the Dots: Scaling Remediation Reform to Promote Equitable Transfer Student Success

Alison Kadlec, Tackling Transfer, Inside Higher Ed | March 18, 2021

Using Short-Term Improvement Cycles to Accelerate Progress on Transfer

Alison Kadlec | Tackling Transfer, Inside Higher Ed | April 15, 2021

Credits, Partnerships and Advising: Metro State’s Trifecta of Transfer Success

Alison Kadlec |Tackling Transfer, Inside Higher Ed | February 18, 2021

Systems Can – and Must – Build Better Pathways to Prosperity

Laura Couturier and Alison Kadlec | Tackling Transfer, Inside Higher Ed | March 4, 2021

The Pandemic Pass/Fail Problem: How Colleges Can Help Students Transfer

Wesley Whistle and Elin Johnson | New America | March 17, 2021

How States and Systems Can Work Toward Making Transferring Smoother

Elin Johnson and Wesley Whistle | New America | February 10, 2021

After the Storm: The Jobs and Skills that Will Drive the Post-pandemic Recovery

 Burning Glass Technologies | February 2021

Interstate Passport Briefing

UHWO Develops Interstate Passport Dashboard

The University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu’s institutional research office has created a useful and handy dashboard on Interstate Passport earners at the institution. The number of Passports awarded each semester is reported, and each cohort includes data on educational level, division, student geographic origin, ethnicity, first generation, and gender. The dashboard also reports average-time-to-degree in years by degree for first-time freshmen and transfer students.

Alan Rosenfeld, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, notes that the Passport recipients look very much like typical UHWO students in terms of ethnicity, gender, time to degree, Pell status, and first-generation status. Moving forward the institution will examine possible correlations between Passport awards and key metrics such as retention and persistence.

We encourage other Interstate Passport members to consider creating such a tool that provides useful information to institutional researchers and students, as well as other Network members. Contact John Stanley, Director of Institutional Research at UHWO, for more information:

See the full dashboard here.

Interstate Passport Briefing

National Science Foundation grant awarded to support development of a STEM Passport

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and New Mexico State University (NMSU), in collaboration with its branch community colleges, have been awarded a National Science Foundation grant that will be the first step toward development of a STEM Passport. Specifically, WICHE and NMSU will use the $300,000 grant over a one-year period to test the feasibility of using sets of lower-division student learning outcomes (SLOs) as the basis of block transfer into engineering programs. Instead of accepting only specific courses when a student transfers, as most institutions currently do, students would be able to transfer lower-division courses mapped to the SLOs as a block into engineering programs.

When the natural science Passport Learning Outcomes were developed several years ago, a number of faculty members expressed the need for a Passport in STEM subject areas. This project will be the first to examine utilizing learning outcomes in a STEM field as a basis for block transfer to a baccalaureate degree path.

Research indicates that nearly half of STEM bachelor’s degree recipients attend a community college at some point in their college career and are often required to repeat courses when they transfer. These challenges are amplified for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds who may have difficulty navigating transfer in the face of complex university admission requirements.

WICHE and NMSU’s capacity-building project will lay the foundation for work that will lead to four broader impacts: 1) Improved transfer efficiency in engineering disciplines; 2) improved curriculums that result in improved student retention; 3) improved participation and persistence among students of color and students from low-income backgrounds in STEM; and 4) increased numbers of engineering graduates to contribute to the economy. Though the reform of transfer practices is challenging, WICHE and NMSU will encourage this work by leveraging mounting pressure for engineering programs to change in response to numerous external forces. Foremost among these forces are the lack of a sufficient number of engineering graduates to fill an expanding job market and the need for STEM degree programs to embrace greater numbers of historically underrepresented students.

To accomplish this work, NMSU will identify the student learning outcomes that are critical for students to complete a four-year electrical engineering degree and map those SLOs to visually depict their prerequisite course relationships and preferable course sequencing. The resulting SLO map will inform identification of a lower-division SLO block to simplify curricula, potentially improving degree progress and persistence for all students, not just transfer students. WICHE will conduct a literature review to further identify factors that inhibit transfers within STEM and engineering disciplines, and also recruit leaders of national organizations and two-year and four-year institutions representing at least four states to analyze and refine NMSU’s proof of concept and assess the feasibility of scaling NMSU’s work to additional institutions.

The project will be led by several principal investigators: Sarah Leibrandt, director of Academic Leadership Initiatives at WICHE, David Smith, associate provost for Curriculum and Assessment at NMSU, and Laura Boucheron, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NMSU. According to Dr. Boucheron, this work will enhance student success by reducing time to degree, mitigating the effects of “bottleneck” courses and increasing student awareness of the interconnected nature of engineering topics.

Work on the NSF project began this spring. See press announcement here.

Interstate Passport Briefing

Passport Review Board Annual Meeting Convened Virtually on February 11th!

The Interstate Passport Review Board (PRB) convened virtually for its Annual Meeting on Thursday, February 11, 2021. Co-chaired by Paul Disney of Western Oregon University and Kari Brown-Herbst of Laramie County Community College, the board membership includes 16 representatives from Interstate Passport member states, as well as three non-voting affiliate members and two at-large members. Attendance at the meeting was 35 people, which included committee chairs, consultants and staff.

The Board received reports from Interstate Passport staff on a number of items and activities:

  • Annual report and budget;
  • Significant increase in the number of members (28) during the last 12 months, which brings the membership total to 59 in 17 states;
  • Call to Action to improve transfer, issued last July, generated support from nearly 200 individuals, organizations and associations;
  • Award of the ECMC Foundation grant to support 20 new Network members, including 10 with Minority Student status;
  • Participation in National Student Transfer Week, sponsored by the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students;
  • Numerous presentations by Passport staff and representatives throughout the year.

The Board discussed several items including but not limited to the review of 2019-2020 academic data reported by member institutions; the review and approval of policy documents; proposed revisions to the Memorandum of Agreement and Bylaws; future funding and membership growth opportunities, and election of co-chairs. Paul Disney will continue as co-chair of the PRB, representing four-year institutions. Kari Brown-Herbst will continue as the two-year representative.

The Board had a successful virtual meeting and is looking forward to meeting in person in 2022!

Interstate Passport Briefing

Data from the 2019-2020 Academic Year Continue to Suggest Passport Students Do Well!

The 2019-2020 Academic Tracking Report was presented to the Passport Review Board during their annual meeting on February 11, 2021 by author Michael Torrens, director of analysis, assessment and accreditation at Utah State University. Passports have been awarded to students since 2016; the total number awarded to date is 49,069 (see table below).

Total Number of Passports Awarded by Academic Year

Grade Point Average. Students who earned a Passport and transferred to another Network member institution earned an aggregated grade point average (GPA) of 3.54, statistically higher than the 2.92 aggregated GPA of students who transferred without a Passport in the same period (see Figure 1). In addition, academic performance GPA of students who transferred with a Passport was roughly comparable to Passport earners who remained at the same institution.

Earned Credit Hours. Students who transferred with a Passport to another Network member institution and completed two terms in AY 2019-2020 earned 13.64 student credit hours (SCH) on average, compared to 9.74 for students who transferred without a Passport (see Figure 2).

The detailed report can be found in the Interstate Passport 2019-20 Annual Report.

Interstate Passport Briefing

Transfer in the News

How to Survive the Enrollment Bust

By Nathan D. Grawe, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 13, 2021

The author of this comprehensive article presents fairly sobering data on declining enrollment rates across the country but also highlights efforts at specific colleges and universities that offer possible solutions for maintaining student populations and fulfilling institutional missions. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated already declining enrollment in higher education, particularly among international students, low-income families, and larger minority populations. These declines may indicate new trends. In addition, citing research from the 1918 flu pandemic, the author predicts that the United States can expect 300,000 to 500,000 fewer babies than were born in 2019, which will be felt in the next generation of high school students.

Despite the dire picture, higher education proved agile in responding to many of the crises brought about by the pandemic, including swift adaptation to online learning, more flexible governance structures, test-optional admissions, intensified recruitment, and more financial aid options. Colleges and universities also gained a deeper understanding of their students and, in many cases, the obstacles they face. “We were reminded that determinants of success extend deep into students’ lives. These experiences should draw us into renewed commitments to holistic approaches to retention.”

Nathan D. Grawe is a professor of economics at Carleton College. He is the author of Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018) and The Agile College (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021).

Community colleges must bridge the divide between noncredit and credit programs

By Matthew Gandal, Inside Higher Ed, January 22, 2021

In this opinion piece the author presents the differences between noncredit and credit programs and how shuttling students into the former – to help people get back to work – too often diverts students of color from higher levels of learning and better job opportunities. “The legitimate concern has emerged that the focus on short-term training for those who have been left most vulnerable by the pandemic could unintentionally exacerbate racial tracking in education.”

Gandal recommends five key elements to remedy the bifurcated system and the inequities it has fostered, appreciating the difficulty and time involved in effecting some of these changes: (1) Ensure clear connections between noncredit credentials and relevant degree programs. (2) Make noncredit programs creditworthy or credit-based. (3) Remove barriers to transition. (4) Serve all students equally. (5) Align departments and governance. Examples of institutions that have begun bridging the gap are presented.

Matthew Gandal is president and CEO of Education Strategy Group and a former senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Iowa Wesleyan, Southeastern Community College team up to encourage student transfer

By Emma Whitford, Inside Higher Ed, January 13, 2021

In an effort to boost enrollment at both institutions, Iowa Wesleyan University and Southeastern Community College will form a public-private alliance that will create an easy transfer path from the two-year college to the private liberal arts institution. The two schools will continue to operate independently and will share some revenues. Rather than an all-out merger, the alliance is similar to a “mutual growth federation,” which allows the institutions to move forward incrementally and to share students, funding, resources and employees.

Mapping the College Transfer Process: Barriers to Student Success and Opportunities for Improvement

By Sophia Sutcliffe and Barbara Condliffe, MDRC, December 2020

This infographic presents the stages of the transfer process as developed by the MDRC Center for Applied Behavioral Science in partnership with the City University of New York. The partnership conducted interviews and focus groups with CUNY staff members and students to identify factors that impede students in the process of transferring from community colleges to earn bachelor’s degrees. The blueprint developed by the team breaks the transfer process into four stages with milestones at each stage, along with information about challenges faced by both students and staff. Interventions or opportunities are identified at each stage that could help students transfer more easily. The full report on the project is available here

Introducing Tackling Transfer

By Alison Kadlec, Inside Higher Ed, January 14, 2021

Tackling Transfer is a national project focused on “fostering the conditions for scalable and measurable improvements in bachelor’s degree attainment rates for students who begin at community college, with the goal of achieving greater equity for students from low-income families and persistently marginalized or minoritized communities of color.” The initiative is supported by Ascendium Education Philanthropy, ECMC Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation, in partnership with HCM Strategies, The Aspen Institute, and SOVA.

Last fall the partners created a three-part webinar series in collaboration with Inside Higher Ed, “Can We Finally Fix Transfer?” that featured efforts from around the country to improve transfer outcomes. The project is an opportunity in this difficult time for higher education to reshape policy and practices, reorder priorities, and develop bold solutions to improve transfer. Inside Higher Ed will provide updates and information on the project’s activities throughout the coming year.

Adding College Transfer to the Biden Administration’s Agenda

By Juana Sánchez, Inside Higher Ed, January 21, 2021 on

This short piece makes the case for adding college transfer – specifically the community college pipeline – to the new president’s agenda for higher education. The author discusses the “systemic failures of epic proportion” i.e., only 13 percent of students who start at community college earn a baccalaureate within six years; low-income students of color are disproportionately affected. A number of states have efforts underway to combat the problem, and Sánchez cites the Tackling Transfer Policy project as one of the major efforts. She urges partnership with the new administration to “deliver on the promise of college access, affordability and equitable completion.”

Gov. Gordon and higher education leaders outline plan to strengthen state’s economy

By Will Thomas, Wyoming News Now, January 25, 2021

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon has proposed modernizing and refocusing the state’s higher education system through a new initiative intended to support the state’s economy and workforce. The Wyoming Innovation Network (WIN) calls for collaboration between the University of Wyoming, the state’s sole four-year institution, and all seven community colleges. WIN will emphasize workforce development in high potential areas; supporting and training entrepreneurs and new business startups; research and market analysis aimed at technology transfer and commercialization; and developing outside revenue sources such as corporate partnerships to provide new opportunities for students. Work is already underway to establish a software engineering program, as well as tourism and hospitality programs and entrepreneurship training programs for a variety of marketing sectors.

Embedding & Integrating Certifications in Degrees

By Vistasp Karbhari, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, The University of Texas at Arlington

January 20, 2021, The Evolllution 

In this article the author advocates for the integration of certifications in college curricula and on college transcripts, citing the growing disconnect between academia and the workforce. Particularly in light of the havoc wreaked on both higher education and the economy, Karbhari argues that “the devaluation of vocation-based training…could have been integrated with the disciplinary knowledge attained by college graduates” to better prepare students for employment with the knowledge and skills demanded by employers.

Certifications are issued by industry/professional organizations or governmental bodies, and, as such, close collaboration between these groups and university departments is essential for better alignment and integration with the curriculum. Karbhari suggests the use of electives, capstone courses, and internships, which may offer work experience, and also “will allow students to choose between a traditional academic experience and one focused more on certification and the workforce.” He offers ideas for funding the integration of certificates, and urges a rethinking of the “social compact with the communities we serve…to address changing trends and needs.”

College Transfer in the COVID-19 Era: Expectations vs. Reality

By Michelle Dimino, Memo from Third Way, December 17, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has irreparably changed the landscape for college students, who have had to devise new plans to achieve their academic goals in a very uncertain environment. One sure thing to expect is more student movement between institutions. Many obstacles exist as students decide where to transfer, complete applications (again), and transfer credits. The author presents three hypothetical “transfer traps” that may await students, with a scenario, expectations, and reality for each. Importantly, Dimino also suggests steps that states and institutions can take to eliminate barriers and facilitate transfer between institutions. Solutions are at hand for states to act now. 

Funding Community Colleges and Embracing Micro-credentials is an Equity Mandate

By Kathleen deLaski, founder and CEO of the Education Design Lab, and Rufus Glasper, CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College Real Clear Education, February 12, 2021

Stackable credentials, or “micro-pathways,” are, according to the authors, cheaper, faster, and a better alternative or on-ramp to a degree. A micro-pathway is two or more smaller credentials that add up to a greater credential, one that is “more flexible to earn than a degree…and targeted to specific roles that lead to a livable wage.” Rufus and deLaski contend that micro-credentials are better suited to today’s learners, and they are now acknowledged as an “equity mandate,” particularly at community colleges. Unfortunately, federal financial aid does not cover most non-credit workforce-relevant programs. But institutions and policymakers can create policies that reflect the realities of today’s learners, so many of whom “lack the time, support, and economic backstop to invest four to six years or more in acquiring proxies for talent.” The authors cite research that “estimates as many as 30 million workers have the skills to earn 70 percent more but lack a credential to prove it.” Micro-pathways are a feasible solution to recognizing the skills, capabilities and job experience of today’s learners.

New America Blog on Student Transfer

The New America website features a blog on education policy, including a series on student transfer. The latest entries, all dated February 10, include:

These blog posts offer suggestions and solutions for problems that all institutions are facing.