‘Reverse Transfer’ helping provide further credentials

November 6, 2017

Current students within the North Dakota University System may be eligible for an additional degree under a recent initiative.

The “Reverse Transfer” initiative is designed for students to complete and transfer coursework back from the four-year to the two-year institution, essentially granting them credit via a degree for work already accomplished, said Lisa Johnson, NDUS director of academic affairs. The idea first came to the NDUS after two of its universities expressed interest in implementing a pilot program here following similar programs hitting the national spotlight elsewhere in 2012.

According to Johnson, reverse transfer had previously described students who withdrew from a four-year institution to pursue an associate degree at a two-year institution. The distinction today was that the new initiative actively encourages students to continue pursuing their baccalaureate degree at a four-year institution while also getting credit for their associate degree.

Johnson has noted that the outreach was to students who had made substantial progress toward an associate degree, but transferred to a four-year institution prior to being awarded it.

“Most notable about this initiative is that we aren’t asking students to physically return to the community college to complete the remaining coursework,” Johnson said. “Rather, our community colleges are working with students on an individual basis to determine remaining coursework that can be taken at the four-year institution and transferred back to the community college.”

The initiative is in place at all 11 public colleges and universities that make up the state’s university system. However, expectations differ among institutions. For instance, the four-year institutions are expected to be knowledgeable about the initiative, and to aid students in consulting the appropriate two-year college to discuss completion of the appropriate degree. Two-year colleges will be responsible for advising, course substitutions, and assisting students most likely to be enrolled at two NDUS institutions.

According to Johnson, current students who originally started with an associate degree and transferred to a four-year institution prior to completing the associate degree are good candidates for reverse transfer. Students should be in good academic standing, have at least 15 completed credits toward an associate degree, and be enrolled in a four-year institution.

The initiative would help students gain academic degrees for credits they’ve already earned but may not have applied at the time to an associate degree. Johnson noted that one ready example could be students who pursued a bachelor’s degree, but encountered some type of life scenario that prevented them from completing that program coursework. If a student had been far enough along, they would still be able to utilize that coursework already completed into a degree.

“Completion of an associate degree is a significant milestone and enables students to apply for a number of good jobs that are available in North Dakota with this credential,” said Chancellor Mark Hagerott. “Students are encouraged to concurrently pursue the baccalaureate degree at the four-year university with the understanding that completion of the associate degree is a noteworthy accomplishment and formally documented on the academic transcript.”

Since implementing the initiative, each semester the university system has contacted roughly 80 potential students who met the minimum criteria as participants in the program. Johnson noted that although the Reverse Transfer programs being new to the state, the number of students involved in them was steadily growing.

“The success of Reverse Transfer programs in the NDUS is highly dependent upon great faculty and staff at our colleges and universities who are committed to the success of the program, understand the unique needs of a returning student population, and are particularly skilled at advising and aiding students in navigating individualized educational pathways,” Johnson said.

She added that faculty and staff within the university system were continuing to work with returning students, whether they had been out of college for one, or 10, years.