6 ways to improve the student transfer process

The American Council on Education (ACE) this week published a report outlining how colleges and universities can improve their transfer and award-of-credit practices to help students efficiently complete their degrees. Authored by a task force of 28 university leaders from two- and four-year public and private institutions, the report calls attention to persistent transfer student equity gaps—disparities only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The global health crisis and the resulting economic fallout have widened equity gaps and threaten two decades’ worth of gains in access to higher education for first-generation, low-income students, and students of color,” the task force writes.

Moreover, pandemic-related enrollment disruptions could further increase movement between higher education institutions, and between colleges and the workforce. The report estimates that across the next six years, around 1.1 million of the 2.9 million undergraduate students who enrolled in fall 2019 will transfer to another institution at some point.

Asserting that “credit loss is occurring to a much larger extent than it should,” the task force highlights six ways colleges and universities can reshape their approach to awarding credit and supporting transfer students. The higher ed leaders call on colleges to:

  • Make sure their institutional culture prioritizes the award of transfer credit and credit for incoming transfer students’ prior learning, approaching it as “an essential component of student success.”
  • Remove obstacles that prevent students from accessing their transcripts and carrying over credits when seeking to continue their education at another school.
  • Use technology to ensure consistency and timeliness in reviewing and awarding credit.
  • Increase transparency so students understand which credits will transfer and the implications for their degree pathway.
  • Provide high-quality, personalized advising to guide transfer students and, when possible, coordinate with key transfer partners to ensure continuity.
  • Collaborate with sending or receiving transfer institutions to establish articulation agreements and structured pathways.

Such efforts to “remove friction and provide every opportunity for learners to regain momentum in their pursuit of postsecondary education are more important than ever, particularly for those who have been too long excluded,” the task force writes.

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