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Oregon’s public colleges and universities awarded $450,000 by Lumina Foundation to help implement “Reverse Transfer” degrees

Source: Elizabeth Cox Brand, Community Colleges & Workforce Development: 503-947-2454

Contact: Di Saunders, Oregon University System; Office: 503-725-5714; Cell: 971-219-6869

SALEM, October 10, 2012 – A new pilot program between Oregon’s public community colleges and universities will begin to offer students the option of obtaining an associate’s degree through “Reverse Transfer,” thanks to a $450,000 two-year grant from the Lumina Foundation. A joint collaboration between the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD) and the Oregon University System (OUS), reverse transfer recognizes students’ achievements with an associate’s degree after they have transferred to a 4-year school and have accumulated the credits needed to fulfill the 2-year degree program requirements. It also recognizes the degree completion for the community college, which receives no “credit” for the degree through current data measures tracking completions.

Cam Preus, commissioner of CCWD said, “We are very thankful to the Lumina Foundation for this grant, and excited about our partnership with the OUS to help students gain credit for the degrees they have earned. This pilot project will jump start reverse transfer in Oregon and help us understand how to move from concept to implementation. Bottom line, attaining an associate’s degree on the way to a bachelor’s degree helps keep students on track to graduation, and helps them in their jobs and careers with an additional valuable credential.”

Today’s students move frequently between 2- and 4-year postsecondary institutions in pursuit of education, training and a degree. Some students transfer into 4-year universities before they complete an associate’s degree at a community college, with a percentage of this group gaining a bachelor’s degree eventually through a combination of credits from both institutions. Recent research has shown that students who are awarded a reverse transfer associate’s degree are more likely to stay in school and finish a 4-year degree program.

 “Some students can get discouraged after they transfer to a 4-year college/university and see more years ahead of them, still, before they get a degree,” said Melody Rose, OUS vice chancellor for academic strategies. “If students are awarded an associate’s degree while completing a bachelor’s degree, the accomplishment of this helps them stay motivated and on track to graduate with a 4-year degree.” Statistics from recent, early work in this area show retention rates improve by 10% for those students who receive an associate’s degree through Reverse Transfer once they are at a 4-year institution.

With the tough job market continuing in Oregon, reverse transfer degrees can give an extra edge to recent graduates. Having both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree on a resume reflects a broader, more accurate view of a graduate’s skills and training received over time. For those who do not complete a bachelor’s degree after transferring but receive an associate’s degree with accrued credits, they have at least the one degree to help them in their career goals and for job prospects; and if they return to complete their bachelor’s degree later it will be easier to re-enter and move more quickly towards completion. Students who pursue studies and careers in engineering and other technical fields often benefit from transferring earlier to take lower division classes in their major that will keep them on track for graduation; getting a reverse transfer degree would benefit these students as well with an additional technical credential.

There are also benefits for colleges and universities in Oregon who eventually adopt reverse transfer into their awarding processes. 

“Community college completions will more accurately reflect the investment of time, resources and support that 2-year institutions have in the students who transfer prior to degree completion,” said Preus. “Institutions awarding reverse transfer degrees will gain credit for the degrees in their completion outcomes, create closer transfer collaborations with our 4-year partners, and gain alumni who feel a greater connection to the community college. The counting of completed associate’s degrees will more accurately reflect the graduation rates and achievements of community colleges, and will be represented in the state’s important 40-40-20 goal to increase educational attainment in Oregon.”

Community colleges that lose students today before degree completion have to count this as a “failure” even if students’ academic experience at that school leads them to a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year institution. Reverse Transfer will record the associate’s degree earned after transfer as a success and credit the community college with this when calculating their completions.

Three reverse transfer pilot programs are already underway in Oregon: Blue Mountain Community College and Eastern Oregon University; Klamath Community College and Oregon Institute of Technology; and Linn Benton Community College and Oregon State University. The Lumina grant for Oregon will fund pilots in ten community colleges and all seven Oregon University System campuses, with all seventeen community colleges in the state joining by the end of the grant period. 

Pilot partners will be determining the administrative systems and technology they need in place to begin tracking and extracting student credit data from transcripts between the two or more institutions who are partnering. This can be complex given the need to share information between two institutions in two different postsecondary sectors and will take resources and institution’s commitment to accomplish. Outreach to students at 2- and 4-year institutions, and to the public, about degree attainment through Reverse Transfer will also take place as part of the pilot as this is an important part of successfully implementing the program in Oregon.

The Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD) coordinates the efforts of 17 community colleges statewide and maintains educational opportunities and workforce development capacity in the state. Our Mission is to contribute leadership and resources to increase the skills, knowledge and career opportunities of Oregonians. For additional information, go to www.oregon.gov/CCWD 

The Oregon University System (OUS) comprises seven distinguished public universities and one branch campus, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning. The Oregon State Board of Higher Education, the statutory governing board of OUS, is composed of fifteen members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Oregon State Senate. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu