While 80% of the 5.3 million students enrolled in public two-year institutions aim to earn a bachelor’s degree, only 29% transfer within six years and even fewer, 17%, complete a bachelor’s, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. This discrepancy between aspirations and outcomes is even wider for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds and first-generation students.
Behind these low completion rates is a broken transfer pipeline where students—and their course credits—fall through the cracks.
Many states lack clear and equitable statewide articulation agreements that offer guidance to public institutions on determining course equivalency for credit transfers between institutions. Without clear articulation agreements, admissions staff and administrators use a significant degree of discretion, creating a patchwork system where students can lose 37% of their credits in public-to-public transfers and a staggering 94% in public-to-private transfers.
Credit losses hinder students from completing their degree, contribute to greater student debt and saddle federal financial aid programs with greater inefficiency.
Fixing the Broken Transfer Pipeline for Students
In response, College Success launched the Catalyzing Transfer Initiative (CTI), which provided $4.5 million to support the development and wider adoption of clear and equitable transfer agreements, ensuring less credit loss for students.
CTI specifically aims to increase the number of Black and Latinx community college students transferring to and graduating from four-year programs by targeting states with either high numbers of minority-serving institutions or rapidly growing populations of students of color.
Collectively, these grantees have the ability to influence multiple aspects of transfer reform—including accountability, funding, data, and governance structures—that can directly benefit students, especially students of color, and repair the talent pipeline that will fuel our national economic recovery.
Catalyzing Transfer Initiative Grantee Cohort
American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)—Equity Transfer Initiative
AACC is launching the Equity Transfer Initiative, a national effort aimed at supporting academic program transfer pathways between two- and four-year institutions. The goal is to strengthen partnerships between community colleges and four-year colleges to support transfer and align degree pathways to a bachelor’s degree for underrepresented students. Read the press release to view selected colleges and universities.
Education Commission of the States (ECS)—Identifying Opportunities in the Transfer Policy and Practice Reform Space
ECS is conducting a landscape scan of national transfer reform efforts, priorities, and outcomes and incorporating findings into the planning and early development of a National Transfer Network. The goal is to gain a stronger understanding of ongoing work in the field. ECS will undertake a comprehensive review and analysis of historic and current transfer initiatives focused on policy and practice improvements.
Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP)—Transfer BOOST (Bachelor's Opportunity Options that are Straightforward and Transparent)
IHEP is reforming transfer pathways by encouraging Arizona, Illinois and Virginia to declare commitments to transfer success, invest in students and institutions, and track outcomes in a manner that is transparent. The goal is to accelerate significant improvements in transfer and deliver affordable, equitable degree pathways for students.
State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO)—Transfer Policy Standards for Equitable Attainment
SHEEO is working with Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington to develop and adopt state- and system-wide transfer standards that contribute to equitable transfer outcomes and degree attainment. The goal is to engage college and system leaders and policymakers to develop and implement analytical tools and action plans that facilitate transfer student progression.
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)—Interstate Transfer Passport
WICHE is scaling the number of institutions that are members of the Interstate Passport Network, a national network of member institutions and states that accept block transfer of lower-division general education attainment based on student learning outcomes, rather than on specific courses and credits. The goal is to add 20 new Interstate Passport institutions, including at least 10 minority-serving institutions. As of October 2021, WICHE has recruited 15 colleges and universities from eleven states to join the Network with ECMC Foundation’s support. Read the original press release to learn more.