Published on 2015/10/13

Reverse Transfer: Standing Out and Creating New Pathways for Completion

The EvoLLLution | Reverse Transfer: Standing Out and Creating New Pathways for Completion
Opening the door to reverse transfer agreements creates excellent opportunities for four-year universities to strengthen partnerships with local colleges while providing a better postsecondary experience for students.

Employer demand for postsecondary credentials today is stronger than ever before. For the most part, in order to get a high-skilled job that leads to a career, prospective employees need to hold at least an associateā€™s degree. This can pose a challenge for community college students who aim to transfer to a university to pursue a four-year degree. If these students stop out for any reason, it can mean that despite completing a great deal of postsecondary work, even enough to earn an associateā€™s degree, they leave higher education with no credential. Reverse transfer agreements are helping to overcome this issue. In this interview, Doug Baker discusses some of the central advantages to forging reverse transfer agreements with local two-year colleges and shares his thoughts on what it will take for such programs to become more commonplace in the near future.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why did NIU forge reverse transfer agreements with nearby two-year colleges?

Douglas Baker (DB): Ultimately, the goal of these agreements is to better serve students. They are allowing students to more quickly attain a degree that improves their employability, while at the same time recognizing the important role of the community colleges where they do the bulk of their associateā€™s work.

We noted a lack of such programs in Illinois and took that as an opportunity for NIU to take a lead in this initiative and develop the concept in our state. Further, it was an excellent way to continue developing and strengthening relationships with other community colleges.

Evo: How do partnerships like these help NIU differentiate itself from other universities in the area?

DB: At present, Northern Illinois University is the only university out of Illinoisā€™ 12 state universities that offers reverse transfer agreements. We currently have nine institutions in the program and three in the pipeline. Our goal is to have these reverse transfer credit agreements with all the community colleges in the state.

To date, out of the 99 students who participated in this program since its inception in 2013, 27 percent of them were awarded associate degrees by the community college from which they transferred while pursuing their NIU Bachelorā€™s degree. NIU seeks to take the lead in following this best national practice.

Evo: What are some of the most significant roadblocks you had to overcome in launching these reverse transfer agreements, and how did you overcome them?

DB: The most difficult challenge has been convincing other institutions of how easy this process is and working to make this a statewide practice so as to benefit all students, no matter which institution they attend.

We are seeking to overcome this roadblock by doing presentations at registrar and transfer student conferences as the means of getting the word out as to the benefit to students and the ease of the process. We also have electronically shared our methodology with other state universities and community colleges for them to use as a model towards implementation.

Evo: What do you think the future holds for reverse transfer agreements across the US?

DB: Increasingly, a bachelorā€™s degree is becoming a necessity to secure a job that provides a path to economic security and these types of agreements allow students to attain that goal faster and more simply. Because of that, I believe that they will become more common as colleges and universities look for ways to help students find a pathway to career success.

In the current climate, with the number of college-age students stagnating, both colleges and universities must work harder to find new methods to increase admissions, enrollment, persistence and graduation. We believe that reverse transfer agreements can be an integral part of those efforts. They strengthen relationships between community colleges and universities while allowing both to provide greater value to the students that they serve.

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Key Takeaways

  • Reverse transfer agreements provide an excellent avenue for four-year universities to create and strengthen partnerships with local two-year colleges.
  • Itā€™s critical to work with registrar and transfer-student leaders to ensure they understand that participating in a reverse transfer agreement is not difficult or cumbersome.
  • Reverse transfer agreements propose a really interesting approach to overcoming common challenges to enrollment, retention and success while ensuring students have the education necessary to succeed in the labor market.

Readers Comments

Wilfred Stone 2015/10/13 at 8:42 am

We need to keep emphasizing how simple it really is to participate in programs like this. Thereā€™s no reason every four-year college in the country canā€™t have a reverse transfer agreement with local colleges.

Lora Carr 2015/10/13 at 10:37 am

I agree. The payoff to workload ratio is just so high, the benefit to both the students and the partnering schools so great, I hope we get to a point where reverse transfer agreements are just a given.

Jan Carroll 2015/10/13 at 3:40 pm

Students are going to catch on and this will become a factor they look for when applying to and choosing their school. The security of knowing they can pursue their big dreams and lofty goals while still having something to show for their work even if it takes them longer than expected will be huge.

Susan Farber 2015/10/26 at 6:01 pm

I agree that this agreement between institutions serves students. I remain curious as to funding issues which often drive administrative decisions and define policies. Mr. Baker did not mention how financial implications were addressed.

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