Reverse Transfer: Standing Out and Creating New Pathways for CompletionDoug Baker | President, Northern Illinois University
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 associate’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 associate’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 associate’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 Illinois’ 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 Bachelor’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 bachelor’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.
Author Perspective: Administrator