Growing numbers earn degree through reverse transfer

accgradmortarboard122V2The number of students earning an associate degree from Austin Community College through reverse transfer has doubled in the past year as institutions join efforts to help students receive a credential.

Between August 2014 and June 2015, ACC awarded 403 reverse transfer degrees, compared with 202 degrees awarded through reverse transfer before August 2014.

This is win for everyone – most importantly, for our students,” says ACC President/CEO Dr. Richard Rhodes. “It’s a job market where every credential counts. We want to make sure students who start at ACC and then move on to a university don’t miss out on the opportunity to receive a degree that they earned.”

With reverse transfer, former students with at least 30 ACC credits can apply subsequent credits from their transfer institution to satisfy associate degree requirements. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree can benefit from having one credential as they work toward another; those who have completed their bachelor’s degree can add another credential to their resume.

Former ACC student Gwen Cubit already had transferred to the University of Texas at Austin when she learned she was just a few credits short of earning an associate degree. The decision to take the classes she needed to complete it was worth it.

“Anything can happen. I thought, ‘At least now I’ll have a degree.’ ” — former student Gwen Cubit.

“I wanted to have my associate degree in case I wasn’t able to finish my bachelor’s degree,” says Cubit, who eventually earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work. “You have to have some higher education. Anything can happen. I thought, ‘At least now I’ll have a degree.’ ”

Research indicates that students who earn an associate degree before transferring to a university are twice as likely to complete their undergraduate education. The degree also improves employment opportunities for those who transfer to a four-year university but don’t finish.

Since introducing the reverse transfer option three years ago, ACC has worked to make the process simple and automatic: When students apply to ACC, they give the college permission to receive transcript information from universities they may attend in the future and automatically transfer applicable credits. Students can opt out of the service.

Joining efforts to give due credit

Recent state and national initiatives will make it easier for ACC to identify and reach out to students who are eligible for a degree through reverse transfer. Earlier this year, Texas became one of a growing number of states that require public institutions to allow credits to transfer back to community colleges (House Bill 3025).

The ApplyTexas common application now includes a reverse-transfer opt-out provision, and in July the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) launched a service that lets its 3,600 participating institutions automatically and securely exchange student data for reverse transfer. As many as 2 million eligible students could be awarded an associate degree as a result.

To help colleges comply with House Bill 3025 and adopt the necessary infrastructure and processes for the NSC service, several institutions and organizations have partnered to launch the Texas Reverse Transfer Initiative. The group plans to recommend that the state include reverse transfer graduates in colleges’ completion data and clarify opt-out guidelines.

“The associate degree is the fastest-growing workplace credential. They’ve earned it, why not award it.” — Dr. Richard Rhodes

“The exchange of data between colleges is getting easier,” Rhodes says. “It’s important that we work with our partners in education to improve students’ path to success and recognize their achievements along the way. The associate degree is the fastest-growing workplace credential. They’ve earned it, why not award it.”

Read more comments by Dr. Rhodes about reverse transfer in A National Reverse-Transfer Initiative on the American Association of Community College’s 21st Century Center website.


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