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Transfer Student Trends

The National Student Clearinghouse recently released its third report on transfer and mobility. The report, Signature Report 15: Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2011 Cohort, examines the transfer pathways of students who started postsecondary education in fall 2011. Analysis includes student enrollment patterns across different institutions, across state boundaries, and for the first time, dis-aggregations by race and ethnicity.

The data revealed that there were 2.8 million first time students in the fall 2011 cohort. Over one million (38.0 percent) of those students continued their academic studies at a different institution within the first six years. Interestingly, two-year institutions serve more than half of the cohort at 1.5 million but only 5.6 percent transfer with some type of credential from their starting institution. Of the one million transfer students, 27.2 percent transferred across state lines. Of students who transferred, Asian and White students were more likely to transfer than Black and Hispanic students. Click here for the full report.

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Employers Value Learning Outcomes

An article, Public May Not Trust Higher Ed, but Employers Do, was included in the August issue of Inside Higher Ed, discusses the perspective that employers have of higher education and the skills that employers highly value when hiring new graduates. In particular, two skills identified are critical thinking and oral communication.

Both of these skills are part of the knowledge and skill areas which make up the Interstate Passport Learning Outcomes. Interstate Passport Network member institutions build Passport Blocks which are menus of courses that teach towards learning outcomes based on nine knowledge and skill areas. When a student completes the courses in the block with a minimum grade of C or better, the students earns a Passport, an early milestone of completion on the way to a credential. The student has also achieved competency in key skills and knowledge areas valued by employers.

More information about employers what employers are looking from college graduates can be found at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) recently released report by Hart Research Associates, “Fulfilling the American Dream: Liberal Education and the Future of Work.

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Meet Utah State University’s program coordinator for its Veterans Resource Office

Tony Flores is the program coordinator of Utah State University Veterans Resource Office and a member of Interstate Passport’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee which focuses on the benefits of Interstate Passport for transfer students, especially active military personnel, veterans, and their families--a highly mobile population that often must transfer. In his position, Flores is all too familiar with the story of a veteran student who has had to repeat courses and/or lost credits while transferring, ultimately costing the student more time and money. “Earning a Passport can really benefit the students I work for”, says Flores. Utah State University, one of the founding Interstate Passport Network member institutions, is near a local base and currently serves over 450 veteran students through their Veterans Resource Office. “Since becoming involved with the committee, I have focused on increasing awareness with staff about the benefits of Interstate Passport and how earning a Passport can really help our military students.”

Flores currently sits on the Utah Department of Veteran and Military Affairs Education and Employment Work Group and is president of the National Association of Veterans Program Administrators. In addition to supporting veterans in his professional work outside of the university, he was recently asked to speak to the Utah Legislature’s Military and Veterans Affairs Commission regarding Interstate Passport and will also be presenting at the Student Veterans of America’s national conference. “The Commission members showed their continued interest and support of veterans’ education during my presentation on Interstate Passport. My goal is to continue the dialogue with commission members and to emphasize that the Interstate Passport program is a pathway to general education transferability.”

Flores served in the United State Army from 1994 through 1997 spending the majority of his time with B Co. 3/75 Ranger Regiment and his final year of service with C Co. 1/503 Infantry Regiment (Air Assault) Camp Hovey, Korea. He earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts & science from Utah State University.

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Taking Assessment Personally

Taking Assessment Personally Or, How I Was Reminded of the Value of General Education
by David Smith, director, Office of Assessment, New Mexico State University

Since this post was originally published on the Interstate Passport blog in 2016, the state of New Mexico completed a general education (GE) reform process with the goal of prioritizing and improving the learning of five essential skills: communication, critical thinking, information literacy, quantitative reasoning, and personal and social responsibility. Teaching essential skills will be integrated into a curriculum organized around traditional knowledge areas such as science, the humanities, etc. The resulting model aligns remarkably well with the Interstate Passport’s nine knowledge and skill areas, and also with the Baccalaureate Experience learning outcomes. Implementation of this GE model over the next two years has instilled a new urgency into the need to make learning and assessment of essential skills both meaningful and effective.

At my institution, we have a set of institutional student learning objectives called the Baccalaureate Experience. These bachelor’s-level general education objectives include things like creativity, self-awareness, critical thinking, and life-long learning. It’s a great list, but I wonder, does it serve its purpose well? Are faculty and students aware of it? Does it in any way guide what they do? One of my greatest challenges is to make the Baccalaureate Experience meaningful. How? Let me begin by telling a story.

I started in my new position as director of assessment in July of 2015, excited by a new challenge and confident the timing was right for change. I’d been on the faculty for 21 years, and I loved teaching chemistry and working day-to-day with students, especially the ones just stepping out. They were wide-eyed with curiosity, about life if not chemistry, and I felt honored to meet them in that liminal space as they transitioned into independence. I had attended and led events at our Teaching Academy over the past several years and was chair of one of my institution’s assessment committees. So, when an opening appeared for our assessment director position, I decided to apply. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do that even a few years prior, but a mid-life period of self-discovery and re-evaluation left me thirsty for change and a new challenge.

However, confidence is a fickle friend. By January in my new position, I’d discovered lots of things about assessment that I “didn’t know I didn’t know.” Every duty seemed to take an order of magnitude more time than it should, and I was falling behind. Confidence transformed to doubt, often in the middle of the night, and it seemed I had an appointment with anxiety every Monday morning. Did I really have what it takes to do this job? Was I foolish to try this now, when my whole life felt upside-down? In the middle of this struggle, my friend Elaine suggested I do an exercise.

Set aside self-criticism for the moment and answer this question. What are the things about you that help you do your job well? Focus on who you are, not on what you do.

So, I made a list, and it looked something like this:

  • Communication skills: clear writing; engaging presentations; one-on-one conversations
  • Interpersonal skills: empathy and compassion; listening to understand and asking questions; ability to take different perspectives and value various motives; giving others freedom for growth
  • Knowledge: teaching and learning principles; assessment principles; the faculty experience of assessment; relationships between assessment, accreditation, and program review
  • Metacognitive skills: self-awareness and self-reflection
  • Analysis / critical thinking skills: identifying what is most important; discerning and critiquing relationships within complex circumstances and ideas; creating metaphorical connections
  • Organizational skills Leadership skills: facilitating group discussions; recognizing individuals’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Quantitative skills: spending time with data!

Now, about three-fourths of the way through making this list, something connected in my brain, and I had a sudden, exciting thought:

This is what we want our students to learn! Life skills like these!

And then, after pausing for a moment:

Well, duh, of course it is! You’ve been telling people this for months! This is the Baccalaureate Experience.

Imagine entering a favorite restaurant from the back, through the kitchen. You don’t know where you are, but it seems familiar, the sounds and smells. Then, when you walk out from the kitchen, it all clicks into place. “Oh… that’s where I am!” Seeing it from the other side gives you a new perspective, a new appreciation, one that you’ll never lose. This was one of those moments for me. I stumbled across the idea that student learning, and learning assessment, should be about more than disciplinary learning. It should be about building life skills. The idea wasn’t new; it’s at the heart of general education. But the context was new, and that made it real. It made it personal.

About David: As director of assessment, David Smith provides assessment resources, support and feedback for faculty and staff throughout the NMSU system as they strive to improve the learning and overall experience of students. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989 and began his career as a faculty member of NMSU’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department in 1994. During his 21 years of teaching, Smith has been a leading proponent of course assessment on the NMSU campus and a mentor to numerous graduate student and faculty instructors.