The Interstate Passport Network expansion continues with five new institutions joining at the end of June. The Network now has 60 members from 17 states. The newest Passport members are as follows:
Information about all Interstate Passport Network members can be found at http://interstatepassport.wiche.edu/institute/
On July 8 of this year, Interstate Passport issued a Call to Action to higher education institutions, systems, and associations across the country soliciting help for students in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy. Colleges and universities were shuttered in March and students and faculty were sent home. Institutions have resumed classes this fall, either virtually or face to face. Even so, thousands of students are expected to transfer across state lines this year and beyond. Many may drop out or stop out. These students need help – now.
The Call to Action makes the case for the Interstate Passport as a viable solution for institutions in all states to ensure that students who transfer will not be obstructed, will carry their earned credits to their new institutions, and will continue on their degree path. Interstate Passport provides states, systems and institutions with a way to collaborate on a solution for transfer, while also incentivizing students to achieve the milestone of general education completion whether they transfer or not.
The Call to Action Task Force is co-chaired by Sam Gingerich, former provost and executive vice chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage, and Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District. Other members include representatives from state higher education institutions, systems, and associations. Supporters who signed on to the Call for Action number over 175, and include representatives of IP Network member institutions, non-member institutions, and regional and national higher education organizations and associations.
Members of the Task Force have agreed to continue serving in an advisory capacity and will continue to meet on a quarterly basis in the coming year. Institutions, organizations, and associations who are interested in learning more about Interstate Passport, how institutions join the Network, or signing on in support of the call to action are encouraged to email staff at firstname.lastname@example.org
BIO: Janet L. Marling, Ph.D. has been affiliated with NISTS since its establishment in 2002 and was named executive director in 2011. In this role and through her extensive speaking, training, and consulting activities, Dr. Marling works with individuals, higher education institutions and associations, state agencies, foundations, and legislative bodies to improve transfer policy, practice, and research. She edited the New Directions for Higher Education volume titled, Collegiate Transfer: Navigating the New Normal, published by Jossey-Bass, and has been involved as a project director and/or co-principal investigator for multiple research grants focusing on transfer student success. Dr. Marling holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of North Texas, an M.S. in counseling psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a B.S. in psychology from Texas Christian University.
Anna Galas: Let’s start off with a little bit about the organization, the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS), itself, what it has focused on most as an organization the last couple of years and what are the current priorities?
Janet Marling: Bonita Jacobs founded NISTS in 2000 at the University of Texas. I served as the Director of New Student and Mentoring Programs at that time, and transfer students comprised 54 percent of our undergraduate student population. That equated to about 10,000 new transfer students each year, and we weren’t sure how best to serve them. Noting a lack of research and practice literature and professional development opportunities, we decided to convene a national gathering of transfer professionals on our campus that was very well received. Eighteen conferences later, we’ve expanded our work beyond the conference to include original research, commissioned research, professional development content for our website, professional and student recognition programs, and created an academic certificate on transfer leadership and practice.
Today we envision a world where every higher education professional and institution provides a holistic and inclusive student experience for all transfer students. We manifest this through professional development that empowers practitioners, faculty, and administrators to challenge the status quo and be transfer champions. We define champions in three ways: 1) agents provide individual support that builds students’ confidence and helps them navigate their transition; 2) connectors use their influence to connect students with specific individuals and resources and further the students’ academic journey; and 3) advocates more broadly address transfer, seeking to create institutional culture, policy, and practice changes to support these students.
Our core values center on education, research, and advocacy, and all of our programs stem from this perspective. We examine the pressing transfer problems we are trying to solve and determine how we can provide our stakeholders with the tools they need to help transfer students and create campus climates where transfer students are successful.
AG: That leads me to the next question. As an organization, what do you feel are the pressing problems today, after living through COVID the last six months and moving forward?
JM: The transfer process continues to be entirely too difficult to navigate for many students. It’s critical that 2- and 4-year institutions broadly examine and streamline their transfer policies and procedures. Transfer students struggle to get access to accurate and timely information. If they are contemplating transferring, they need information from both their sending and receiving institutions, and too often, it’s just not accessible. College websites fail to address the intricacies of transfer, leaving students with incomplete information and unclear next steps.
From the standpoint of COVID-19, we are learning as we go. Whether or not we’re going to see increases in student mobility remains to be seen. And does that mobility manifest itself as students physically moving between campuses, or is it more of an exchange of credit? It’s plausible that students can earn credit from multiple institutions without ever having left their residences. Yet, we have to figure out a way for those credits to mean something and contribute to students’ academic momentum
What keeps me up at night in this age of COVID and post-COVID is wondering how many capable transfer students, particularly low-income students and students of color, have stopped out of higher education. For those able to continue, I worry they may not have the access and energy to engage in the robust academic planning required to maintain their momentum. Life’s fundamentals understandably drive students’ current decision-making: Can I feel safe in my environment? Can I afford college right now? What is the most convenient college option? Considerations related to the consequences of their decisions, such as whether or not credits will transfer, may not be top of mind. Institutions need to understand this challenge and proactively act on behalf of students by removing unnecessary barriers and revising prohibitive policies and practices.
That leads us to thoughts on policy. I get asked a lot: what transfer policies are changing because of COVID-19? Honestly, institutions are altering practices right now, but it may be a while longer before we see sustainable policy changes. Institutions are suspending rules around pass/fail and credit acceptance, due dates for application materials, and official vs. unofficial transcripts. It will be interesting to see if there’s a resulting sustained effect of any of these changes.
I am concerned institutions will prioritize enrolling transfer students without having an intentional plan for ensuring that they transition well and persist, a surefire recipe for students amassing extra credits and experiencing increased costs and time to degree. We receive frequent inquiries about best practices for transfer recruitment. A valid request, but I have a hard time educating around recruitment without talking about transfer student persistence and graduation.
It’s essential to recognize that the situation prompted by COVID-19 is not going to be relegated only to the fall semester, and institutions must continue to admit transfer students with the same level of flexibility as they do for first-time-in-college students. We see institutions struggle with transcript evaluations because of delayed transcript exchange between institutions.
It goes back to three areas that transfer students are most concerned about: credits, costs, critical support. Interstate Passport hits the issue of credit transfer. Our students want to know what credits will be accepted and how they’ll be applied to their degree program. Especially in this age of COVID-19, we have to avoid lost time and money associated with excess credits. That is critical. Students are very concerned about costs, both the actual and the hidden costs of attendance. There is no parity for transfers when it comes to financial aid and scholarship availability, which is certainly a barrier for our students. So having accurate information about costs and financial assistance is imperative.
Another issue is critical support: advising and support services. Students need to be assured, in word and deed, that they can maintain the academic momentum they carry from their previous institution, have access to mental health and wellness resources, and develop a sense of belonging. Especially now, as this health crisis has challenged everyone, there is no room for error. There never was – but there sincerely isn’t anymore.
AG: Is most of your work with institutions or are you having these conversations with other organizations as well?
JM: We’re doing a little bit of both. We are having conversations with statewide transfer organizations, statewide affinity groups and other national organizations just to get a pulse on what’s happening. The data aren’t there yet to know what transfer patterns are going to look like or the pandemic’s impact. Going into the fall term, we did not have adequate data regarding transfer students’ intentions and concerns. We can say that the situation is exacerbating the challenges that transfers have always encountered when moving between institutions.
AG: Do you feel that this is an opportunity for institutions to improve? COVID is causing folks to prioritize. Do you feel like transfer is rising to the top as one of those issues that institutions have always talked about wanting to improve, and now they’re focusing on that?
JM: That’s such a great question because I believe there is always opportunity in the most challenging times. We have examples of institutions proving that they can have different and better practices on behalf of transfer students because of COVID. For example, many institutions are now providing online services, whether it’s advising or admission appointments, etc., at different hours of the day to meet students where they are. We’ve had reports of institutions being pleasantly surprised by this forced change and optimistic about sustaining the practice. Right now, institutions are still in survival mode as things continue to change rapidly. My hope is that when the time is right, we will take advantage of this opportunity to examine what it means to serve transfer students properly.
More administrators are viewing transfer students as an antidote to declining enrollment. Again, I’m concerned that they’re focused on getting those students into the institution but not yet having conversations about transition, persistence, and graduation. I truly hope the pandemic’s outcome is an acknowledgment that we need to do things differently on behalf of our transfer students, rather than a focus on getting back to what we perceive to be normal. Somebody asked me the other day what it would look like to successfully navigate COVID-19. And my response was: a resistance to return to normalcy. Because normalcy was not particularly working for our transfer population.
AG: As you know, Interstate Passport issued a call to action in July for higher education to explore how to better serve transfer students. Interstate Passport has not solved all of the problems or challenges with transfer, but it is a tool that ensures a certain aspect of transfer for students.
JM: Yes. Interstate Passport addresses the momentum issue that I mentioned earlier. Passport students have a clear sense of what will transfer between Institutions and especially across state lines, which allows them to pursue an academic pathway with an enhanced level of competence. When used in conjunction with intentional educational exploration and program planning at both the receiving and the sending institutions, Passport is an incredible asset to transfer student success and college completion. That sense of security for students is essential. If they encounter a pause in their education, they still have credentials to support what they’ve learned and the potential to apply those credits at a later time.
AG: The National Transfer Student Week – how did that come about? Was last year the first year?
JM: We are now in our third year of National Transfer Student Week. Two groups of transfer professionals – the New York State Transfer Association and the New England Transfer Association – were attending a joint meeting and brainstorming about how everybody gets their special week. Why don’t transfer students have a special week? So they contacted us and asked if this is an idea that people could coalesce around. We thought it was fantastic and we offered to host it.
National Transfer Student week celebrates transfer students and the professionals who support them on their journey. We want institutions to build empathy for transfer students, challenge assumptions, and, most importantly, celebrate those thriving through transfer. During NTSW, we also present our Transfer Student Ambassadors, current or recent transfer students, selected through a national competition. It’s an honor to cast the national spotlight on these exceptional students.
This year’s National Transfer Student Week is the 19th through the 23rd of October. To make it easy to participate, we provide media and programming toolkits on our website. During the week, we highlight how campuses are celebrating and post to social media. We are also super excited to be launching our new Transfer Website Strategy Guide during NTSW. The web site is up already: https://www.nists.org/national-transfer-student-week
Russ Chavez is the Director for Veterans Affairs at South Dakota State University, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Veterans Affairs Resource Center. The center assists military veterans and family members in receiving federal and state educational benefits, and provides guidance and support services to veterans in their transition to academic and civilian life.
Russ also serves as co-chair of the Interstate Passport Military and Veteran Affairs Advisory Committee, which was created after Air University/Community College of the Air Force joined the Interstate Passport Network in 2018. The committee works to ensure that the issues and concerns of military students and veterans at Network member institutions are recognized and addressed. In 2019, Chavez, along with his fellow colleagues, presented on Interstate Passport at the Student Veterans Association Annual Conference.
SDSU is located in Brookings, in the eastern part of the state, approximately 350 miles from Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, and 250 miles from Offutt AFB in Omaha, Nebraska. The state has a number of Army and Air National Guard units throughout the state as well.
The number of military students enrolled at SDSU fluctuates between 300-450 per semester, depending on activities and events affecting the U.S. military overall. The number of military students that earn a degree is roughly 50 per semester. SDSU military students and veterans are primarily from the U.S. Army branch of the military, as well Air Force and Marines.
Russ is ideally suited to direct veterans affairs at SDSU. “Being a veteran and working with and for veterans has always been my passion. My journey has always led me right back to veteran service, from training SDSU cadets in the later years of my military career, to the veterans and family members that I serve today. I truly love helping my brothers and sisters in arms. To me, there is nothing more satisfying.“
Russ noted that the primary challenge for military students is acclimating to civilian life after military service – getting one’s family settled and deciding what job/career to pursue, and the most appropriate degree program. The Veterans Affairs Resource Center assists veterans with all academic issues as well as military benefits and support.
One of the purposes of the Veterans Resource Center is to coordinate programs specifically for veterans, and SDSU has a number of programs throughout the year for military students and their families:
In addition, each year Veterans Affairs awards five $1,000 scholarships to military students with funds from supporters that we have secured. This year the center secured an additional $5,000 and one of those scholarships will be for a dependent of a service member.
BIO: Russ Chavez has served as Director for Veterans Affairs or Interim Director since September of 2016. He oversees the day-to-day operations in the Veterans Services office at South Dakota State University. His primary focus is to ensure the smooth and successful transition from military to civilian life for veterans, service members and dependents. Previously he worked as the School Certifying Official, Army ROTC Instructor, and Supply and Logistics Technician – all at SDSU. He served 21 years on active duty for the U.S. Army. Russ received his B.S. in Business Management from the University of Phoenix.
Below are selected findings from a recent study by ACE and AACRAO, A National Snapshot: How Students Experience and Perceive Transferring Earned Credit on students’ perceptions about how transfer credit was applied and the potential accumulation of excess credits at graduation. The national study included 1,003 survey completers, with 65 percent of respondents currently enrolled at a public institution and 35 percent at a private institution; 78 percent transferred from a public institution and 22 percent from a private institution. Students were enrolled at institutions in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Ninety percent were enrolled full time, 95 percent were between 18 and 24 years old, and three percent had military experience. Seventy percent graduated from high school as opposed to others who earned a GED® or were homeschooled. Most respondents earned college credit from two academic institutions, 16 percent earned credit from three, and 14 percent earned credit from more than three academic institutions. More than two-thirds completed at least one advanced placement course exam, and more than half completed a dual enrollment course while in high school.
Under half (47 percent) of students in the study who lost credit in the transfer process knew why credit had been lost. Reasons for losing credit in transfer can be rooted in institutional policy and practice or student choices or student academic outcomes.
|Reasons for Losing Credit in Transfer||%|
|Reasons for Losing Credit in Transfer||%|
|No course equivalency at current institution||47%|
|Earned dual enrollment credit that did not apply to major||28%|
|Grade earned would not transfer||23%|
|Major exploration courses||19%|
|Repeated at least one course to earn a better or passing grade||15%|
|Courses were not offered when needed, took other courses to remain financial aid eligible||11%|
|Earned more credits than will transfer||10%|
|Pursued a certificate that was not required||8%|
|College preparatory credit for reading, math, or writing||7%|
|Degree checklist was hard to understand||6%|
|Changed my academic catalog of record||6%|
|Pursued at least one minor that wasn’t required||5%|
|Repeated at least one course for personal interest||5%|
|Pursued more than one major||4%|
|Did not send transcript||4%|
|Military credit did not apply to major||2%|
|Military credit not accepted||2%|
|Resource||Somewhat displeased||Extremely displeased|
|Better advising at the institution(s) where I completed courses prior to transferring||39%||57%|
|Better advising at the institution where I transferred courses to (my current institution)||40%||55%|
|Better course scheduling (more times and/or days or ways to earn credit)||13%||41%|
|Better advising in high school about dual enrollment courses or AP courses||26%||31%|
|Better degree checklist||24%||27%|
|More engagement with faculty||19%||20%|
|More flexible financial aid||18%||16%|
|None of the above: losing credits during transfer was unavoidable (exclusive choice)||25%||10%|
|Academic advising at my current institution||41%|
|Academic advising in high school||28%|
|Academic advising at the institution(s) from which I transferred||27%|
|My current institution’s website||26%|
|At least one faculty member at my current institution||23%|
|A family member||20%|
|Member of the current institution’s recruitment/admissions staff||20%|
|At least one faculty member at the institution(s) from which I transferred||16%|
|My previous institution’s website||14%|
|None of the above||5%|
|Veteran’s educational benefits representative||0%|
By Laura Couturier and Josh Wyner, Real Clear Policy, June 1, 2020
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, student transfer is in the spotlight like never before. As more students are expected to transfer this year and beyond, the shortcomings of transfer policies and procedures are starkly evident. Students lose credits or may have to repeat coursework, leading to delays in degree attainment and increased costs. The worst consequence is when students drop out altogether. A number of efforts have been made in recent years by states and institutions to remedy the problems of student transfer, including, of course, the Interstate Passport. Even so, the pandemic has exacerbated the effects of uneven transfer practices within and across states.
The authors of this article put forward the case that leadership from the statehouse is necessary and, indeed, essential to a successful transfer plan of action. “An ecosystem that can support the anticipated increase in transfer is far more likely to be built with supportive policy, compelling incentives, and collaborative work at the state level.”
The authors recommend three actions to be taken by state policymakers to accelerate improvements in transfer: (1) clearly declare that transfer students are a priority, (2) provide financial incentives for transfer students and institutions, and (3) assess progress on transfer student success.
New federal data highlight differences in educational outcomes across many individual variables
By Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, August 25, 2020
This article presents findings from a set of studies released by the National Center for Education Statistics that are part of the center’s 2012-17 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study. In particular, the author draws from Six-Year Persistence and Attainment at Any Institution for 2011-12 First-time Postsecondary Students and Six-Year Withdrawal, Stopout and Transfer Rates for 2011-12 First-time Postsecondary Students. The studies show that the gaps between historically underrepresented groups of students — those who are Black and Hispanic, first in their families to go to college, adults or from families with lower incomes and all other students – are persistent and pernicious. Students in these groups were far less likely to earn a degree in six years, and more likely to have left college without a credential. Other factors considered in the study include parents’ college attendance, whether students started college right out of high school or waited a year, whether students worked, and whether students attended continuously.
The direction of transfer also made a difference. “More than half of students who transferred from one four-year institution to another (56.1 percent) earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to 42.7 percent who transferred from a two-year to a four-year institution and 25.2 percent who transferred from a four-year to a two-year college.”
See the Inside Higher Ed article for specific data results: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/08/25/new-federal-data-highlight-differences-educational-outcomes-across-many-variables
By John Fink, Maria Hesse, Cheryl Hyman, Shirleatha Lee, Sharon Morrissey, and Elena Quiroz-Livanis, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, July 24, 2020
The authors, who are members of the national Tackling Transfer Policy Advisory Board, work to build equitable pathways for students to and through two-year and four-year institutions into careers. They propose four ways to end the transfer swirl and ensure that community colleges serve as an affordable and accessible gateway to higher education that will provide economic mobility to low-income students and students of color.
By Wendy Kilgore, Steven C. Taylor and Karina Pineda, American Council on Education National Task Force on Transfer of Credit, in collaboration with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, 2020
This comprehensive report presents findings from a recent study by ACE and AACRAO on students’ perceptions about how transfer credit was applied and the potential accumulation of excess credits at graduation. The national study included 1,003 survey completers, with 65 percent of respondents currently enrolled at a public institution and 35 percent at a private institution; 78 percent transferred from a public institution and 22 percent from a private institution. Students were enrolled at institutions in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Transfer is the first potential point of credit loss for a student. Seventy-seven percent of students had transfer credit evaluations occur automatically; 23 percent of students had to ask the receiving institution to evaluate their transcripts for potential transfer credit. The report presents 12 different factors that are considered in the application of credit earned by a transfer student, all governed by institution policy or practice. For example, 14 percent of institutions do not accept dual enrollment credit. Some institutions limit the number of credits that can be awarded by the course level. Others have curricular policies that impose limits on specific courses that can be awarded in transfer as opposed to being earned at the institution to which the student transferred (e.g., awarding transfer credit for ENG101 but requiring that ENG102 be residential credit).
See Transfer Facts in this newsletter for selected findings from the report.
Highlights from the report summary include:
By Emily Warren, Ed Note, Education Commission of the States, August 11, 2020
Strong Start to Finish is an initiative at the Education Commission of the States that seeks to help higher education institutions increase the number and proportion of low-income students, students of color and returning adults who succeed in college math and English. Course pathway maps provide a visual guide of the links between every class ending with the first college-level (i.e., gateway) math or English course applicable to a degree.
Curricular information collected from six higher education systems produced over 440 individual maps that resulted in three primary takeaways:
By Martha Ellis, University of Texas at Austin, Charles A. Dana Center, June 18, 2020
Formed in late 2018, The Texas Transfer Alliance is a joint effort between the Charles A. Dana Center, the Texas Association of Community Colleges, and four of the state’s public university systems (Texas A&M, Texas State, University of North Texas and the University of Texas). Alliance members seek to collaborate across the state in order to make meaningful progress on transfer student outcomes. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the national movement toward racial justice, the Alliance has issued a Call to Action to institutions of higher education in the state of Texas, asking colleagues to make transfer a key priority in institutional and COVID-19 response plans. The request asks colleges and universities to create clear pathways for students to transfer successfully with earned credits applied and on track for degree programs, and to provide tailored student services and advising that are responsive to COVID-19 exigencies.
The Texas Transfer Alliance has set ambitious goals to be achieved by 2025, all of which seek to eliminate gaps by race/ethnicity and Pell status: increase four-year bachelor’s completion rate of community college transfers; increase the six-year transfer-out rate; decrease the average number of attempted credits to degree; decrease the average time-to-degree for transfer students, and increase the percent of Texas community college students completing college-level math and writing in the first year.
by Debra D. Bragg, Lia Wetzstein, Elizabeth Apple Meza, & Theresa Ling Yeh, Data Note 11 / May 2020
This issue of Transfer Partnerships Series – Data Note 11 includes discusses their upcoming release of New Directions for Community Colleges (NDCC) on “Transfer Partnerships for More Equitable Student Outcomes” (Volume 192) and the lessons learned from their research on transfer partnerships and equitable student outcomes. IN particular how two- and four-year institutions coordinated their actions to improve transfer policies and practices, especially for underserved populations. The authors note that transfer partnerships are an important way to battle the racial transfer gap as well as help address the new pandemic realities: “swirling” between colleges, food and housing insecurity, and affordability and equity gaps.
For our many new members as well as new staff at long-time Network members, we recommend the following webinar: