Interstate Passport November 2020 Briefing

Call to Action: Transfer and Applicability of Credit

Scaling Partners Network Image

The Scaling Partners Network, a diverse group of 25 policy, advocacy, research and institutional membership organizations throughout the country, has issued a call to action regarding transfer in higher education. In response to the increasing number of students transferring across higher education institutions and the economic recession due to the pandemic, the Network calls on educators and policymakers to seriously examine and rethink articulation policies and practices. “The time has come for institutions to design systems to apply maximum credit in transfer and to lower artificial barriers to the creation of seamless pathways.” In addition to the well-known data points on the low number of credits that transfer and the dismal rates of degree completion among low-income and minority students, the current climate is exacerbating the existing barriers and inequities transfer students face. Collaboration among institutions is essential to make meaningful progress on students’ ability to transfer credits and to continue and their pathways to degree completion.

The Scaling Partners Network members have identified essential transfer actions for institutions to consider, including publicly championing transfer as a priority; examining policies related to transfer with a racial equity lens; thoroughly analyzing data to understand current outcomes of students who transfer; and Incentivizing institutions to develop, scale and sustain programs that promote collaboration between institutions.

Network members include, among others, the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Complete College America, American Association of Colleges and Universities, Association of Public Land-Grant Universities, and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. See the WCET Blog post on the Call to Action.

Read the Call to Action and see all members of the Scaling Partner Network here.

Francisco Rodriguez, LACCD Chancellor, Speaks on Interstate Passport

Representing one of the newest members of the Interstate Passport Network, Francisco Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Community College District participated in a webinar convened by the Chronicle of Higher Education in late September entitled, Transfer Students as a Key to Institutional Resistance. The webinar was moderated by Chronicle senior writer Katherine Mangan. In addition to Rodriguez, panelists included Michael Bastien, president of Rockland Community College, part of the State University of New York system; Janet Marling, executive director of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students; and Macia Outlaw, a junior at Mississippi College.

Mangan framed the discussion around the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing stress and uncertainty facing college students across the country. She noted that, “even in the best of times the transfer experience is often complicated and students frequently lose credits that they earned at their previous institutions.” How can institutions keep students in the pipeline? The stakes are extremely high for both students and institutions. Transfer students “could play a pivotal role in the survival of many colleges today.”

Rodriguez highlighted the Interstate Passport as a simple yet effective solution that ensures acceptance of credits for transferring students, and keeps them on the degree pathway. “The onus is on the sending institution. Through the learning outcomes process the receiving institution can say that the credits and courses of an incoming transfer student who has earned a Passport are indeed transferable. It makes it much more predictable and takes the mystery out of getting in. What’s nice about it, as well, is that it’s a whole package. It cannot be decoupled or taken apart.”

The panel discussed other important tools and strategies for transfer students, including strong academic advising and articulation agreements between institutions, as well as collaboration between institutions. It’s in the economic interest of institutions to work together in meaningful ways to support students and their aspirations.

The webinar is just an hour long and well worth tuning in.

Interstate Passport and Network Members Participate in National Transfer Student Week

Interstate Passport and five of its Network member institutions participated in this year’s National Student Transfer Week (NTSW) October 19-23. Organized by the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS), NTSW takes place annually the third week of October and celebrates transfer students and the professionals who support them on their journeys. This year’s theme was “Thriving Through Transfer.” The participating IP Network institutions – Chicago School of Professional Psychology, University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, University of Hawaiʻi West Oahu, Washington State University [], and Western Oregon University – hosted events through social media, webinars, workshops, and panels to connect former and current transfer students with one another and provide information about transfer to prospective students.

The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville participated in National Student Transfer Week and offered these testimonials:

Collin Hoffman and John Severs, UACCB transfer students

Collin Hoffman and John Severs are both transfer students who transferred in to UACCB from other institutions. John was a student at the University of Arkansas at Morrilton. He said the more the two-hour commute to UA-Morrilton was too much of a strain. He transferred to UACCB because of its close proximity to his home. Collin was previously attending Arkansas State University-Newport. He completed one semester at ASU-Newport before transferring to UACCB. He said his transfer experience has been great and that he appreciates that the instructors at UACCB challenge their students. “The teachers care about the students and are willing to help in any way. My GPA went from a 2.75 to a 3.6 after I transferred to UACCB. I know that I will be better prepared for my bachelor’s degree having gotten my associates at UACCB,” he said.

See the NISTS website [] for highlights of all institutions that participated in National Transfer Student Week.


Oral Communication: A Foundation of General Education

Kim Weismann Headshot
Kim Weismann, Williston State College

Dr. Kim Weismann is a Professor of Communication and the Arts and Human Sciences Department Chair at Williston State College in Williston, North Dakota. She earned her Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Dickinson State University, her Master of Arts in Speech Communication from North Dakota State University, and her Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of South Dakota. Dr. Weismann is also a member of the Interstate Passport Oral Communication Faculty Committee, which is responsible for developing the learning outcomes and proficiency criteria for this foundation skill area.

This is her 15th year of teaching in higher education. Weismann has taught a variety of courses during that time including, but not limited to, Fundamentals of Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, Intercultural Communication, Oral Interpretation, Organizational Communication, Persuasion, Argumentation, Cultural Diversity, Social Problems, College Strategies and College Transition. Her doctoral dissertation, “Evaluating the perceived challenges in offering public speaking courses online” was published this year (Publication No. 27667256, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing).  Dr. Weismann currently resides in Williston with her husband, Tony Freed, and their rescue animals.

Oral Communication: A Foundation of General Education

I am a full-time professor of Communication at a small community college in northwestern North Dakota. In my 15 years of teaching in higher education I have taught a variety of courses as well as at different types of institutions, including a research university, a four-year regional teaching university, and currently a community college. During this time, unsurprisingly, I have seen a number of changes. Some practices, however, have remained consistent, one in particular: communication courses count as general education courses within the institutions where I have taught. More importantly, communication course outcomes connect to the workforce and employment. They help students learn ethics, critical thinking, listening, and critical evaluation – skills that employers want.

In a traditional public speaking class, students learn lifelong skills:

  • Writing and organizational skills when writing speeches
  • Analytical skills when researching assignments and assessing peers’ presentations
  • Collaborative skills when working with their peers – considered vital in today’s workplace
  • Listening skills when listening to their peers’ presentations.

Many institutions offer a course in interpersonal communication in which students typically work on communicating with other people in various settings including, but not limited to, the workplace, romantic relationships, friendships, and families. Students also learn about perception and intrapersonal communication. The focus is on collaboration, conflict management and listening skills.

At some institutions, interpersonal communication is the sole class students take for the communication competency. Thus, it is essential that students have a clear understanding of the concepts and skills necessary for effective communication – preparation, delivery, critical listening, and the ability to make adjustments. Students learn about these concepts and skills through a variety of ways such as role-playing and in-class discussions. Students also find examples of situations in popular culture and explain how the concepts apply to each scenario. Students may also share their personal experiences in small group discussions in class as well.

The Interstate Passport oral communication outcomes focus on ethics, critical thinking, organization, delivery skills, monitoring and adjusting with an audience, as well as listening and critically evaluating messages. All of the skills taught in a communication course are transferable to other areas of students’ lives, especially their careers.

Indeed, nearly every job has human interaction of some kind, so the ability to communicate effectively is critical. Employers are looking for candidates who have strong written and oral communication skills, very often labeled as “soft skills.” A 2019 article from the Forbes Coaches Council presents 15 such skills needed to succeed in the workforce, including communication: “speaking thoughtfully and intelligently, listening intently, and being a team player with leadership potential.”

The website, which provides services to job seekers as well as employers, cites communication skills as one of the top five attributes that employers are looking for in potential employees.

Communication studies is a discipline that imparts to students not only new concepts but also skills that will be valuable throughout their lives. The learning outcomes for these courses have remained consistent over time and likely will continue to do so because of the importance of good communication skills in all facets of life.

COVID-19: Transfer, Mobility, and Progress, First Look Fall 2020 Report

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, October 2020

The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) has released the first in a new report series that examines transfer and mobility in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, transfer options have been made even more difficult since spring 2020 when colleges and universities were forced to close campuses temporarily and the economy headed toward recession. For this report NSC tracked the transfer and mobility pathways of students who enrolled in fall 2020, focusing on three student groups: first-time students; returning students (those who had a stop-out without undergraduate completion and re-enrolled in the current term); and continuing students (those who continued enrollment from the preceding term, with or without having earned an associate degree or certificate). Transfer and mobility were tracked across institutions, sectors, and states, including over summer terms and after a lapse of enrollment.

Findings on enrollment:

  • Undergraduate enrollment fell 4.5 percent over last year as a result of sharp declines in both freshman enrollments and students returning after a stop-out.
  • First-time enrollment fell considerably at all types of institutions except for private for-profit four-year institutions (+3.7 percent).
    • Public four-year and private nonprofit four-year institutions suffered steep declines (-13.7 percent and -11.8 percent, respectively)
    • Community colleges were hit hardest, with a 22.7 percent drop. First-time enrollment dropped regardless of age or gender, but delayed entry students (age 21-24) declined the steepest at 28.0 percent, and men declined more than women (-18.1 percent vs. -14.6 percent). This signifies a looming crisis for community colleges.

Findings on transfer:

  • Transfer enrollments are down 4.7 percent from last fall, declining somewhat more steeply than undergraduate enrollments generally (-4.5 percent).
  • Each transfer pathway responded differently. The number of reverse transfers fell much more (-18.4 percent), along with summer swirlers (-10.8 percent) and lateral transfers   (-8.3 percent), while upward transfers unexpectedly increased by 2.6 percent.
  • Students who had stopped out prior to the outbreak are less likely to have come back at all this fall, and less than half of those who came back transferred.
  • Continuing students – those who maintained enrollment since the COVID-19 outbreak – accounted for the growth in upward transfers this fall. Most transferred without finishing an associate degree and these students are on the rise.
  • A growing number of upward transfer students crossed state lines this fall.

Interstate Passport Network institutions should take note of these last two findings. Four-year institutions, in particular, with incoming transfer students should do everything possible to ensure that students receive credit for learning already achieved. And as more students transfer across state lines the Passport becomes even more valuable.

Source: Causey, J., Harnack-Eber, A., Huie, F., Lang, R., Liu, Q., Ryu, M., and Shapiro, D. (October 2020), COVID-19 Transfer, Mobility, and Progress, Report #1, Herndon, VA: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center will continue to collect and analyze data for this series. In recognition of the pandemic’s impact on students and institutions, the Center will ‘disseminate rapid response information and context for the education community and individual learners seeking to understand how the pandemic is changing transfer pathways across higher education over the next two years. The transfer pathways considered will be defined broadly to include vertical, lateral, and reverse transfer.”

The target release schedule for future reports is as follows:

  •                                   Fall 2020            December 21, 2020
  •                              Spring 2021            March 2021, May 2021
  •                               AY2020-21            July 2021
  •                                   Fall 2021            October 2021, December 2021
  •                              Spring 2022            May 2022
  •                 Final Special Report          Summer 2022

The PDF version of the COVID-19: Transfer, Mobility, and Progress, First Look Fall 2020 Report is available here [].

Student Transfer in the News

Strapped for students, colleges finally begin to clear transfer logjam

by Jon Marcus, The Hechinger Report, October 9, 2020

The pandemic is already believed to have prompted more students than usual to move from one university or college to another and — like a giant game of musical chairs — portends a flurry of additional transfers when it ends. There are early, concrete signs that this is happening. And policymakers speculate that there will continue to be a higher rate of transfers permanently, now that students have gotten experience with taking college credits from more than one place. Now progress on better serving transfer students nationwide is speeding up. This article features various efforts across the country including Interstate Passport.

Private Colleges Should Take Transfer Seriously

By Mat Marquez, director of North American admissions, Trinity Western University

Inside Higher Ed, October 19, 2020

This no-nonsense article takes private colleges and universities to task on how to be competitive and successful in recruiting and enrolling transfer students, particularly as the number of such students continues to increase. Among the recommendations Marquez makes: transcript evaluation needs to happen quickly; institutions’ websites need to be crystal clear about how students can transfer and credit evaluation; private institutions should use their agility to adapt faster to market changes by innovating and being competitive. “Good enough” will no longer cut it in the semesters to come “because the surging transfer market is about to move right past your campus.”

Progress, and Finger Pointing, on Student Transfer: A Survey

By Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, October 19, 2020

The Transfer Landscape: A Survey of College Officials

Inside Higher Ed surveyed administrators who are involved with transfer policies or practices at two- or four-year colleges to learn how they perceive the transfer landscape. Results of the survey underscore “some of the attitudes and practices that have historically impeded the path for transfer students – and identifies perceptual gaps between administrators at two-year and four-year colleges that could be difficult to overcome.” For example, the majority of administrators at both two-year and four-year colleges “agree that students who transfer from one institution to another perform as well as or better at the receiving institution than do students who began at that institution.”

The survey is available for download here.

Inside Higher Ed will explore the findings of the survey in a WEBCAST on Tuesday, November 17, at 2:00pm ET. Some of the topics to be addressed in the webcast include:

  • How to better support transfer students from the beginning to the end of the transfer process.
  • The benefits of having a more centralized approach to credit evaluation.
  • New policies being introduced regarding transfer students in light of COVID-19.

Register for the webcast here.

How 2- and 4-year colleges can boost spring enrollment

By Natalie Schwartz, Education Dive, October 14, 2020

In the current environment – college enrollments down, many campuses closed, classes convened online, and the economic impact of the pandemic affecting everyone – predicting enrollment for the spring semester is beyond challenging. Even so, this article provides recommendations on what community colleges and four-year universities can do to attract and enroll students. Community colleges should advertise more and highlight flexible class times and low tuition. Four-year institutions should focus on improving transfer pathways, and be clear about how – and how many – credits will transfer for incoming students.

Will the pandemic lead to more competition for transfer students, or stronger partnerships for the transfer process?

By Madeline St. Amour, Inside Higher Ed, September 25, 2020

Amidst the pandemic, with many students temporarily pausing their education, as well as decreasing high school populations, there is more competition for transfer students. And the key to successfully recruiting those students is to have strong partnerships with other institutions – partnerships that put students first. Community colleges that had such partnerships before the pandemic are fairly confident that they can continue to enroll students and not worry that those students might be “poached” before they complete their programs. To create successful partnerships two- and four-year Institutions need each other. They should align their curricula and involve relevant stakeholders in the transfer process, and work together to keep students on the path to degree completion.

Advancing Equity Post-Pandemic

By Steven Mintz, professor of History, University of Texas at Austin

Blog: Higher Ed Gamma, Inside Higher Ed, September 15, 2020

The author presents six challenges that higher education institutions face around equity: access, non-traditional students, transfer student success, achievement gap, faculty, and teaching. How to improve equity in all of these areas? Mintz offers a number of recommendations and sensible solutions that include owning the problem, collaboration, transparency, and focus – all the while acknowledging the difficulty of effecting institutional change. Nevertheless, students need that change now. Mintz advises institution leaders to “go big or go home.”

Increasing Community College Transfers: Progress and Barriers

By Hans Johnson and Marisol Cuellar Mejia with research support from Sergio Sanchez

Public Policy Institute of California, September 2020

California enrolls the largest number of community college students in the country, and that number is expected to increase in the year ahead. The community college system wants to improve student pathways through community college. This study examines trends in transfer at California institutions, and discusses current reforms and what they may mean for the future.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Transfer rates are higher among students who successfully complete 12 units and take any English or math course within their first three years: 26 percent transfer within four years and 39 percent within six.
  • Transfer rates are higher for students who successfully complete gateway transfer-level math (51 percent within four years) or accumulate 30 or more transferable units (73 percent) in their first year, and for those who earn an Associate Degree for Transfer (50 percent). (Recent reforms have made it possible for more students to successfully complete gateway math and English courses in their first year.)
  • Equity gaps are a big concern. While Latino students represent 51 percent of students who declare a degree/transfer goal, they represent 35 percent of those who transfer within four years; African American students represent 7 and 5 percent, respectively.

“Because community colleges reflect the full diversity of the state’s population, improving outcomes for community college students will go a long way towards improving economic and social mobility.”

Gift Of $100 Million To Help California Community College System Students In Need

The California Community Colleges system, in partnership with the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FoundationCCC), announced that it has received the largest ever gift to such institutions in the nation – $100 million – to help more students complete degrees, transfer to universities and support their basic living expenses. The gift from the Jay Pritzker Foundation, which serves as the official nonprofit auxiliary to California Community Colleges, is recognition of the role community colleges play in educating Californians and preparing them for the workforce. Over a 20-year period the $100 million pledge will help eliminate educational gaps by providing scholarships to students who are well on their way toward completing a certificate or degree at a California community college or transferring to a university. The grant will also provide emergency financial aid to students facing unexpected hardships. In this first year, FoundationCCC will grant up to $150,000 per college.

Faculty play a key role in community college transfer

By Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, September 21, 2020

Jaschik reviews a new study from Educational Researcher that describes the important role of faculty in successful student transfer. Early exposure to faculty is an important indicator of students’ preparation for the upward transfer process. The findings call on baccalaureate institutions “to fully actualize their potential to become proactive and productive partners in serving pre-transfer students.”

The research study is available from Sage Journals

It Matters Long Before: How Early Exposure to Faculty and Advisors at Baccalaureate Institutions Relates to Upward Transfer

By Xueli Wang, Seo Young Lee, Brett Ranon Nachman, Xiwei Zhu

Educational Researcher, American Educational Research Association, September 10, 2020

Tips from the Network

The Faculty Role – Mapping Outcomes and Building a Block

The second of a four-part series, this video provides an overview on the very important role of faculty. New members in particular will find this instructional video beneficial.

The Role of the Registrar and Institutional Researcher

The third of a four-part series, this video provides an overview on the essential roles of the Registrar and Institutional researching in awarding Passports to students and reporting to the National Student Clearinghouse. New members in particular will find this instructional video beneficial.