Transfer and Applicability of Credit: Call to Action

The Scaling Partners Network has released a Call to Action for the higher education sector to facilitate the transfer of credit between institutions.

Anticipating a larger than ever wave of students transferring across higher education institutions due to COVID-19 and the economic recession, a diverse group of policy, advocacy, research and institutional membership organizations have issued a call to action to policymakers and higher education leaders to improve transfer policies. Highlighting the racial justice implications at stake, they emphasize the urgency of taking action to address 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.

They write:

Whereas, several significant dynamics are likely to cause more students to transfer across higher education institutions – in multiple directions, within and across the two- and four-year sectors – over the coming years than ever before. 

Whereas, with increased transfer comes an imperative to resolve longstanding challenges in credit mobility and applicability. Currently, 50% of bachelor’s degree graduates attended at least two institutions before attaining a bachelor’s degree.1 Too many students lose too many credits when they move from one higher education institution to another. Fifty-three percent of transfer students who attained a bachelor’s degree were unable to have all of their transfer credits apply toward their degree. Repeatedly, students are asked to prove what they have learned even when they come with transcripts documenting successful course completion and/or nontraditional coursework. That practice is no longer acceptable.

Whereas, at the same time, our nation is grappling with its history of racial injustice. 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. 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.

Whereas, transfer student outcomes are deeply inequitable by income as well. Forty-eight percent of students from low-income communities and 22% of students from high-income communities started at a community college. Given the broken transfer system, it should come as no surprise that those same populations are least likely to have a bachelor’s degree.

Whereas, the health, education and workforce impacts of COVID-19 have disproportionately affected low-income communities and Black, LatinX and Indigenous populations. We cannot allow transfer to exacerbate this national crisis.

Therefore, now is the time to take action on applicability of credits into degree programs for all types of learning documentation that students bring to the receiving institution. Approaching the process with integrity, flexibility and understanding of what is in students’ best interest is paramount.

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