Recent Blog Posts

Options for Obtaining Student Consent to Participate in Reverse Transfer: Insights from North Carolina

CWIDThere are many ways to acquire consent from students to participate in reverse transfer (RT), and this blog will discuss a variety of options based on North Carolina’s experience in the Credit When It’s Due (CWID) initiative.  In approaching this subject, we interpret FERPA rules and regulations to mean that there must be active opportunities for students to confirm or deny participation (a discussion of other FERPA rules and regulations are left for a future discussion).

Some important factors need to be considered when developing student consent methods, including language, type of available technology, and identifying qualified students.

Why is language important?  First, competition for students’ attention in all forms of communication is intense. Succinct and clear details on what RT is, how the RT process works, and what students have to do in order to participate is crucial. Second, conveying the importance of degree completion to students’ futures is just as important in convincing the student to participate.  With 15 states and many other community colleges and universities now implementing RT, as well as foundations and OCCRL weighing in, there are many examples of why the associate’s degree can improve students’ lives.

Why is technology important?  More and more processes in higher education are accomplished with technology, so developing appropriate and effective technological solutions tend to be more efficient for obtaining student participation and tracking it.  Here are some examples to consider which incorporate technology, the ability to design the appropriate language, and convey RT’s importance:

Integrate Consent Into the Transfer Admissions Application

  • This solution integrates RT consent into an existing institutional process
  • Depending on the software used for the institutional admissions application, this solution could limit the amount of text used
  • This solution may not be an option if the state has multiple admissions applications. In North Carolina, there is a state-wide admissions application, individual university admission applications, and the common application which is used by some of our institutions. Instead of integrating consent into three admission applications, we choose to integrate consent into the student services account option below.

Email Current Students to Obtain Consent

  • This process is currently being used by many institutions in the beginning stages of RT and as the primary communication method. North Carolina utilized this method initially to drive students to a website to login to consent.
  • North Carolina also emailed students repeatedly and we highly recommended this strategy in order to get a good return rate.
  • We also provided incentives for students to participate such as early registration and a gift card drawing.

Integrate a Pop-up Screen within Students’ Self-Services Account

  • North Carolina implemented this solution and it requires collaboration with IT to program consent as well as assistance tracking students’ responses over time.
  • This options allows for flexibility in terms of when potential RT students can be contacted, either at the point of entry to the university or when they meet eligibility requirements.
  • This option allows for more flexibility in designing the language to clearly articulate RT information to students.

These suggestions are a few of the ways institutions and states can implement the consent process for RT.   Throughout this process, North Carolina has repeatedly heard from students who want their associate’s degree while getting their bachelor’s degree.  North Carolina would like to thank our funder USA Funds and all the other states for their invaluable feedback during this process of establishing a state wide RT program.  We would also like to thank the staff of the pilot universities and community colleges in North Carolina who have contributed their ideas and solutions to implementing RT in North Carolina.

for jasonMichelle Blackwell is Director of the Reverse Transfer Program at the University of North Carolina. Ms. Blackwell serves as the program director for the joint grant funded project between University of North Carolina and North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) entitled “Credit When It’s Due”.  

Gender Equity in CTE and STEM Education in Illinois Public Schools – A Pathways Resource Center Brief

Gender Rquity Screen ShotCreating gender equity in the workplace begins with the preparation that students receive in the PK-12 education system. The latest brief, authored by Joel Malin, Asia Fuller Hamilton, and Don Hackmann of the Pathways Resource Center, examines Illinois high school student enrollments in Career and Technical Education courses, focusing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) clusters and STEM Pathways, as defined by Race to the Top application parameters. The data revealed the following results:

  1. Significant gender-based inequities were found in certain career cluster areas, with more equitable patterns in others.
  2. Student enrollment in courses fitting within STEM career clusters included substantially greater male than female participation (64.1% male, 35.9% female)
  3. Non-STEM clusters showed reverse enrollment patterns (55.0% female, 45.0% male).

State, local, and federal policy makers and school leaders will find this brief helpful, as it provides suggestions for examining and changing inequitable practices in CTE STEM areas. To read this brief in its entirety, and others like it, please follow the link below or visit

Read the full brief.

Asia thumbnailAsia Fuller Hamilton is a graduate research assistant for the Pathways Resource Center (PRC). Ms. Fuller Hamilton is currently a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership in the division of Educational Administration  and Leadership. She can be reached at

Joliet Township High School District 204 Job Shadowing Experience

A team from the Pathways Resource Center recently visited Joliet Township High School District 204 to learn more about their job shadowing work-based learning program. As a part of an English 2 course requirement, we learned that each sophomore student engages in a job shadowing experience based on career interests. These career interests are supported by the district’s organization of their two high schools into five career academy clusters: Arts and Communications; Business Management and Information Systems; Health and Science; Human Services; and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Sophomores spend time in class learning requirements and foundational skills for the workplace and are expected to spend four consecutive hours in the field observing and inquiring. After their job shadowing experience, students have an opportunity to reflect on their experiences.

Our visit with Joliet schools provided us with a great example of the value of early student exposure to work contexts. The following two themes of the job shadowing program were prominent throughout our time in Joliet:

  • JTHS post

    Picture represents students receiving hands-on experience in repairing computers during their 2014 job shadowing experience at Professional Development Alliance.

    Collective Cohesiveness. During the visit, we had the opportunity to speak with teachers and business/industry partners. It was clear that all stakeholders understood, were able to articulate, and were committed to the vision. The business/industry representative demonstrated a high level of flexibility regarding the number of students they accepted and types of shadowing experiences offered. They look for various job opportunities within the confines of their businesses to ensure that the schools and students receive the maximum benefit from the experience. Teachers collaborate regularly and all share a role in ensuring students understand the purpose and the importance of the job shadowing experience. They also assist students in the selection of their career choices.

  • Leadership Matters. The success of any program within the school does not come without support from the leadership. In meeting with the Joliet Township High School District superintendent, she relayed her support, as well as the support of the Board of Education, of the job shadowing program. The superintendent also indicated her commitment to provide resources that would ensure the continuation of the job shadowing program and to continually examine future refinements to the program. Also, the program coordinator has done a remarkable job in facilitating the program, securing partnerships, and ensuring that all sophomore students, regardless of travel ability, have a rich experience in the job shadowing program.

As researchers, this visit prompted us to consider possible aspects of work-based learning to explore in the future. One of those involves examining issues of equity within the program and as a result of students’ participation in the program. For instance, what impact does a program such as this have on generating equitable outcomes for all students in the labor force? Another area for future research involves exploring student perspectives and garnering insights on what aspects of the program matter most to them. It is clear that students in the Joliet Township High School District have been afforded a remarkable opportunity to explore their areas of career interest. Clearly, this could not happen without the shared commitment of the district and the Joliet business community.

Asia thumbnailAsia Fuller Hamilton is a graduate research assistant for the Pathways Resource Center (PRC). Ms. Fuller Hamilton is currently a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership in the division of Educational Administration  and Leadership. She can be reached at


Tuition-Free Community Colleges: A Minute with Debra Bragg

dbraggLast Friday (Jan. 9), President Barack Obama introduced an ambitious higher education proposal called America’s College Promise, a plan that would make the first two years of community college tuition-free for qualified students nationwide. 

Debra Bragg, director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership and a Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the College of Education at Illinois spoke with News Bureau education editor Sharita Forrest about Obama’s proposed program. Read the interview here.

Student Perspectives on the Applied Baccalaureate (AB) degree

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts that focuses on diverse stakeholder perspectives on the AB degree. The perspectives we are sharing represent the following groups: community college personnel, students, university personnel, employers, and state policy leaders.


Community colleges play a key role in providing open access to postsecondary education in the United States. Almost half of the U.S. undergraduate students attend community colleges, with representation by minority, low-income, and first-generation students higher compared to four-year colleges and universities (American Association of Community Colleges, 2014). Adult learners are also prevalent at community colleges, including students who are working, unemployed, or dislocated, as well as active military personnel (Ruud & Bragg, 2011). Many of these students have attended college but have failed to acquire sufficient credits to obtain a credential. For these individuals, a return to college to obtain skills and knowledge to obtain or advance in employment is imperative.

A number of factors are prompting the proliferation of Applied Baccalaureate (AB) degrees in the U.S., including the need to improve associate-to-baccalaureate degree transfer, to increase baccalaureate degree completion, to deliver instruction to non-traditional and underserved learners, and to align higher education to the workforce (Ruud & Bragg, 2011). By definition, the AB degree incorporates applied associate of science courses and degrees once considered as “terminal” or non-baccalaureate level, helping students develop higher-order thinking skills and to gain advanced technical knowledge and skills so desired in today’s job market (Townsend, Bragg, & Ruud, 2009). Because of their potential to widen access beyond traditional transfer baccalaureate-degree pathways, adoption of AB degree programs may provide a way for higher education to reach more undeserved populations, including full-time employed, place-bound learners (Ruud & Bragg, 2011).

Our research suggests students who have participated in AB degree programs tend to have a positive perspective toward AB degrees, highlighting their workforce relevance, flexible scheduling, affordable costs, and contribution to baccalaureate completion. We noted that some students also express concerns.  Mostly, they worry about whether the AB degrees will lead to the specific positions and promotions they are seeking, and whether the degrees will gain in acceptance and credibility. These perspectives are discussed below:

  • Workforce relevance: Generally, the content of AB programs of study is viewed as workforce oriented and well aligned with students’ interests in careers that require a bachelor’s degree, such as Information Technology (IT). Compared to general baccalaureate degrees, students perceive that ABs provide a highly relevant learning experience, and they value this aspect of the degrees (Ruud & Bragg, 2011). They also believe that the coursework associated with these degrees is relevant to the workforce, even if they do not have specific information about job placement.
  • Flexible scheduling: Many AB degree programs represent convenience of scheduling through online instruction, evening sessions, courses offered at work sites, and compressed scheduling (Grothe, 2009). This flexibility is especially convenient for learners who work and have other life commitments. Illustrating this point, an Ohio student who participated in an OCCRL focus group commented that the AB allowed him “a little bit more opportunity and flexibility, because my job…  sometimes I have to stay late; somebody’s called in sick, and we have day and night sessions. So it allows me a little bit more flexibility to meet all worlds.”
  • Affordability: Though not universally true, AB degrees may have lower tuition rates than traditional bachelor’s degrees. Also, because the programs are offered close to where students live and work, the cost of attendance is much lower than college-going that requires residence away from home. Further, some employers pay tuition and fees for their employees who are students in AB programs, especially when their education is linked to future advancement. AB students have told us lower cost represents a substantial advantage over traditional baccalaureate programs, sometimes making the difference in attending college, or not.
  • Increased baccalaureate attainment: An intriguing characteristic of many AB degrees is that they accept the transfer of all, or nearly all, credits from applied associate of science (AAS) degrees that, in the past, have been considered terminal (Makela, Rudd, Bennett, & Bragg, 2012). For students who graduate with technical associate degrees, AB degrees provide a pathway to pursue the baccalaureate without losing a substantial number of credits (Bragg et al., 2009). One student who participated in our study illustrates this point when s/he commented: “What’s nice about the Bachelor of Applied Technology degree is that I could take my electronics program, the credits from that, and apply it towards finishing the bachelor’s. And I guess, flexibility-wise, that’s nice.”
  • Credibility: Since AB degrees are relatively new, some students do express uncertainty about whether this new form of baccalaureate is marketable. Some students worry about tangible benefits, such as job opportunities and earnings. Demonstrating a concern for whether the AB studies will compliment work and lead to further employment, one student said: “You know, there’s always that concern. You always have to go through the screening process of your resume… You continue to work full-time and to gain that experience along with getting my degree in the hopes [that] they’ll also see that I have experience to back up that degree.”

Will AB students/graduates find good jobs related to their baccalaureate-level studies?  Will their investment of time and money lead to more opportunities for advancement and higher income, beyond the associate-degree level?

Join us in this discussion. Please use the comment field below to share your thoughts!  Stay tuned!


Grothe, M. (2009). Employer and graduate perspectives of the Community College Applied Baccalaureate: Meeting the college Mission (Doctoral dissertation).  Available from Oregon State University Library.

Makela, J., Rudd, C., Bennet, S., & Bragg, D. (2012). Investigating applied baccalaureate degree pathways in technitian education: Technical report. Champaign, IL: Office of Community College  Research and Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved from

Ruud, C. M., & Bragg, D. D. (2011). The Applied Baccalaureate: What We Know, What We Learned, and What We Need to Know. Office of Community College Research and Leadership. Retrieved from

The White House. (2014). Building American skills through community colleges. Washington, DC. Retrieved from

Townsend, B. K., Bragg, D. D., & Ruud, C. M. (2009). Development of the Applied Baccalaureate. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 33(9), 686–705. doi:10.1080/10668920902983601


MariaMaria Claudia Soler is a PhD student in the Education Policy, Organization and Leadership program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Graduate Research Assistant for OCCRL. She can be reached at



dbraggthumbDebra Bragg, OCCRL director and Gutsgell Endowed professor at Illinois, researches the transition to college by youth and adults, especially student populations that have not attended college historically.