Reverse Transfer Agreements Vastly Expand Degree Completion OpportunitiesDavid Sam | President, Elgin Community College
The numbers tell the story. Community college graduates are more likely to earn more over their lifetimes than those who do not earn a postsecondary credential.
A 2014 Northern Illinois University (NIU) Center for Governmental Studies report found that an Illinois community college graduate can expect a total lifetime earnings gain of over $570,000—an increase of 44 percent over the average total lifetime earnings of those who do not complete an associate’s degree or more.
If they are able to do a reverse transfer, they still earn a credential they can use to market themselves should something interrupt their pursuit of a baccalaureate degree within the six-year period.
This is proof that an associate degree is a meaningful credential and more than reason enough for Elgin Community College (ECC) and NIU officials to sign an innovative reverse transfer agreement earlier this year. This agreement allows eligible NIU students who transferred from ECC without associate degrees to earn the two-year degree using credit earned from NIU courses to satisfy the degree requirements for an associate degree at ECC.
It is critically important for students transferring to four-year institutions to also earn their two-year degrees. We know some students take longer to complete their baccalaureate degree. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), approximately 59 percent of students who get baccalaureate degrees take about 5.9 years to finish. They may have their sights set on a bachelor’s degree in the long run, but in the meantime, they are working full time or taking care of family members, and it may take them more time to finish. If they are able to do a reverse transfer, they still earn a credential they can use to market themselves should something interrupt their pursuit of a baccalaureate degree within the six-year period.
Reverse transfer agreements are part of the future of higher education. Students are going to earn credits from a variety of places, and they will want to bundle all of those credits into credentials. If they have been at a four-year institution for a while, they can still benefit from that two-year credential through a reverse transfer agreement.
If our students can achieve an associate degree and the benefits that come with it, while pursuing a bachelor’s degree, everyone wins.