Getting More People to Say, “I am a College Graduate Now”

by Calista Smith and Anthony Landis / Apr 30, 2014

OCCRL asked Calista Smith and Anthony Landis from Ohio’s CWID team to reflect on their experience at the CWID convening in March 2014. 

After returning to Ohio from the Credit When It’s Due (CWID) national convening in Atlanta, the Ohio CWID team spoke with a transfer student at the University of Akron who received her associate’s degree from Cuyahoga Community College through reverse transfer prior to the CWID initiative. She started her collegiate career in 2005, and when she was awarded an associate’s degree in 2012 while pursuing her baccalaureate studies, a realization came to her: “I guess I am a college graduate now.” She anticipates being a college graduate twice over after earning a bachelor’s degree this spring.

What students should have the realization of being a “college graduate,” enjoying all of the confidence, positive connotations, and opportunities that come with that? What roles do CWID states, institutions, and funders play in making the college graduate dream a reality? Learning from our peers at the Atlanta convening, here are some points that resonated with us:

  • Let students know of their progress and options early and often: As Gary Rodwell from the University of Hawaii at Manoa said, “In Hawaii, students don’t tell us when they graduate, we tell them.” There are many potential paths to the one end of attaining a degree.  All states need to capitalize on technology and top-notch academic advising to inform students of their progress toward a degree, considering the credits they obtained at many institutions. Ideally, the option to reverse transfer credit into an associate’s degree needs to be shared with students prior to transfer, at the point of transfer, in advising after they have transferred, and at other key points in their academic career.
  • Make it easy to compare apples to apples with courses and competencies: Ohio has benefited from an articulation and transfer policy started in the 1990s and the statewide transfer assurance guides that guarantee equivalencies for general education courses across all public higher education institutions. Florida has universal course numbering, and other states have similar tools and policies that make it easier for courses to transfer. Hawaii’s global competency work also sounds exciting regarding the potential of awarding transfer credit. Articulation and transfer policies and practices are essential for the most efficient implementation of reverse transfer and other initiatives that enhance student success and degree attainment.
  • Keep beating the drum of opportunity: North Carolina is trying many creative ways to get students’ attention about CWID, from pop-up windows when they register to drawings for gift cards.  Another state talked about how it sent a postcard about CWID to the student’s permanent address.  Ohio’s institutions are piloting various ways of outreach from follow-up calls to web technology.  In the information age, we need to continue to find ways to break through to students, not only to participate in CWID or sign waivers, but also to provide information and understanding about the value of education and an associate degree. The research being conducted by the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) regarding the impact of reverse transfer and the benefit to students of obtaining an associate’s degree will be another important lick in this drum beat.
  • Make everyone winners: Students are always the focus and should be the biggest winners from CWID.  Yet, we need to make sure that participating institutions and other stakeholders feel like winners too, or at a minimum, not feel like losers.  Ohio’s performance funding for degree completion has been a great incentive in keeping associate degree-granting institutions engaged in CWID.  In our sustainability strategy, Ohio wants to explore ways for both the sending and receiving institutions to feel like winners, whether it’s increased baccalaureate completion among reverse transfer students or performance recognition.
  • Address FERPA fair and square: FERPA privacy regulations are important guard rails on the information superhighway. However, in states such as Ohio where the university system is decentralized, it is a major hurdle in implementing reserve transfer. We were encouraged by the ideas and general guidance on FERPA we heard at the conference. For sustainability of reverse transfer, Ohio is evaluating the development of a statewide FERPA waiver that students can sign when they initially enroll in college or at the point of transfer.

Ohio is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of CWID and the opportunities to connect with and learn from other states at national meetings.  We continue to be encouraged by the initiative as we all work toward getting every student to say, “I am a college graduate now.”

Calista Smith is a project manager at the Ohio Board of Regents and the coordinator for the Ohio Credit When It’s Due initiative.

Anthony Landis is senior director of college and career access and success at the Ohio Board of Regents and the director for the Ohio Credit When It’s Due initiative.