Leading Organizations Urge Policymakers and Higher Education Leaders to Improve Higher Education Transfer Policies and Practice
Urgent action is needed to tackle the largest anticipated wave of students transferring due to COVID-19, economic recession and significant racial justice implications
Anticipating a larger-than-ever wave of students transferring across higher education institutions due to COVID-19 and the economic recession, today a diverse group of 25 policy, advocacy, research and institutional membership organizations issued a call to action to policymakers and higher education leaders to improve transfer policies. Highlighting the racial justice implications at stake, the organizations elevate the urgency of addressing practices and policies that result in credit loss.
The signatories are all members of the Scaling Partners Network convened by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The organizations work together under the principle that greater connection and coordinated action will enable the higher education field to scale innovations faster, more efficiently and with deeper impact.
“Calls for systemic change demand a hard look at practices and policies in higher education that continue to produce inequitable student outcomes by race and ethnicity,” said Nyema Mitchell of JFF. “Among those that contribute most to inequity in postsecondary outcomes are transfer policies and practices.”
Because they are most likely to begin in community college, Black, Latinx and Indigenous students are hardest hit by practices and policies that result in credit loss when they transfer (or contemplate doing so). Transfer student outcomes are deeply inequitable by income as well. Challenges with transfers in the higher education systems are primary drivers of serious inequities and injustices by income, race and ethnicity.
“I understand how burdensome it can be to servicemen when courses don’t apply and you lose time and benefits taking them over again,” said Russell Otway, a father of two who served in the U.S. Navy. “Like many veterans managing injuries, my kids’ learning and my online courses during the pandemic, when I hit roadblocks with applying credits, I can get discouraged.”
The call to action is particularly relevant because the national movements toward providing two free years of college and increasing dual enrollment for high school students could lead many more students to enter college with credits earned in community college. Four-year colleges and universities often refuse to apply credits earned at community colleges toward degree requirements.
“Everyone engaged in delivering and setting policies for higher education should aspire to 100% of students’ credits applying to a credential when they transfer,” said Martha Ellis of the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin. “To ensure we are ready for the coming wave of student mobility, policymakers and higher education leaders must be laser-focused on dismantling barriers to the applicability of all credits and verified learning.”
Scaling Partners Network members identified essential transfer actions informed by research and exemplary credit applicability practices.
Actions for policy leaders include, among others:
- interrogating policies related to transfer with a racial equity lens;
- designing state aid to be portable when students transfer; and
- incentivizing institutions to develop, scale and sustain programs that promote collaboration between institutions.
Actions for higher education leaders include, among others:
- prioritizing transfer through disaggregating, analyzing and regularly distributing data from both sending and receiving institutions to community colleges to facilitate understanding of current student outcomes;
- developing tuition price guarantees and scholarships for transfer students that replicate similar-situation students who began at the institution in their first year; and
- creating clear pathways for students by developing and formalizing robust dual-admissions agreements that map student pathways, build a sense of belonging for transfer students and guarantee applicability of credits upon transfer.
“State and institutional policies and practices should recognize that traditional inequities are exacerbated in the current pandemic crisis,” Scaling Partners members reflected in the call to action. “We must focus on closing equity gaps that have taken on increased urgency as the health, education and workforce impacts of COVID-19 have disproportionately affected low-income communities and Black, Latinx and Indigenous populations.”
Scaling Partners Network member signatories to the transfer call to action include:
- Achieving the Dream (ATD)
- American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)
- American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)
- American Institutes for Research (AIR)
- Aspen Institute College Excellence Program
- Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)
- Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin
- Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT)
- Complete College America (CCA)
- Excelencia in Education
- Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
- HCM Strategists
- Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP)
- JKW Consulting
- Miami Dade College
- NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
- National Student Clearinghouse (NSC)
- New America
- Paul Quinn College
- University Innovation Alliance (UIA)
- WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET)
- Young Invincibles (YI)
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