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As Many as Two Million Students Could Receive Associate Degrees through National Student Clearinghouse’s Reverse Transfer Project

Lumina Foundation Grant Awarded for Landmark Reverse Transfer Project

HERNDON, VA, OCT. 21, 2014 – The National Student Clearinghouse has been awarded a Lumina Foundation grant to work on a landmark project to provide the first national automated solution for exchanging reverse transfer student data. Through this initiative as many as two million eligible students could be awarded associate degrees.

Reverse transfer of credits occurs when a four-year institution transfers student credits back to any two-year institution from which a student has transferred. It doesn’t matter if the student transferred to another associate degree granting institution first or a bachelor’s level institution, attended public or private institutions, or transferred across state lines. If eligible, the student is then awarded an associate degree.

Seventy eight percent of students transfer from a community college to a four-year institution without a degree, according to a Lumina-funded study. Eligible students will now have the opportunity to be awarded a first associate degree that reflects their educational achievement and allows them to compete more successfully in advanced higher education pursuits as well as the workforce.

Lumina seeks to encourage partnerships between community colleges and universities, thereby significantly expanding programs that award associate degrees to transfer students who complete the requirements for the associate degree while pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

“The Clearinghouse Reverse Transfer project is a major step in improving higher education outcomes, which will benefit us as a nation. More students will get the degrees they deserve. Community colleges will be recognized for the value they add to education. And — by granting more degrees — states will be better positioned to attract new business,” said Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

“Reverse transfer also boosts college completions rates. Our research shows that those transferring to a four-year institution, after having received an associate degree, are more likely to complete,” added Dr. David Pelham, Vice President, Higher Education Development and Client Relations at the Clearinghouse

The importance of reverse transfer of credits has quickly gained national recognition. Many states are developing programs, including Texas, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee. More are expected to follow suit. This past summer, Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Correctly Recognizing Educational Achievements to Empower (CREATE) Graduates Act legislation to encourage states to establish or expand reverse transfer programs.

For its Reverse Transfer project, the Clearinghouse is creating a standardized, streamlined, and technologically enhanced process to assist four- and two-year institutions in transferring student credits more efficiently, securely, and successfully. There will be no fees for the service. The Clearinghouse is the largest education electronic data exchange service provider, performing more than one billion exchanges annually with its over 3,600 participating institutions.

During the initial phase of the Reverse Transfer project, four-year institutions will send academic data files to the Clearinghouse whenever a student who has provided consent reaches a specified number of credit hours, thus indicating his or her possible eligibility for an associate degree. Upon receipt of the file, the Clearinghouse alerts the appropriate two-year institution(s) that the record is available for downloading. Two-year institutions can download all records from all four-year institutions to which their students have transferred, for consideration of a reverse transfer degree. The Clearinghouse is working with institutions in Missouri, Texas, and Wisconsin on phase one development.

The second phase introduces enhanced data transparency tools, such as allowing individual students to access all information on them held by the Clearinghouse and providing mechanisms to dispute the information held. Because all data is provided to the Clearinghouse directly by institutions, students will be directed to the appropriate party at his or her institution to resolve any perceived discrepancies, as required today by FERPA. Also as part of phase two, the Clearinghouse plans to roll out a nationwide data mart to enable enrollment records to be cross-checked against the student’s academic records to ensure greater data accuracy.

“We’re pleased to support this effort to help increase associate degree completion through reverse transfer,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation. “The data capacity of the Clearinghouse will allow institutions to assist students who have transferred from a community college in one state to a four-year institution in another state. Institutions will now have better data to conduct degree audits on students’ accumulated records and students will have recognition for achieving their associate degrees.”

Details of the project will be presented by Dr. Pelham on October 28 at the 2014 AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management Conference in Los Angeles. Dr. Pelham will also participate in the Reverse Transfer Policy Summit, jointly sponsored by the National Student Clearinghouse and the Institute of Higher Education, University of Florida, in Orlando, Florida, on January 24 and 25. There national, state, and institution-level higher education officials from all 50 states will gather to learn about facilitating the reverse transfer of credits.

About the National Student Clearinghouse®
The National Student Clearinghouse (a nonprofit formed in 1993) is the trusted source for and leading provider of higher education verifications and electronic education record exchanges, handling more than 700 million verification requests and 250 million education record exchanges annually. The Clearinghouse serves as a single point of contact for the collection and timely exchange of accurate and comprehensive enrollment, degree, and certificate records on behalf of its more than 3,600 participating higher education institutions, which represent 98 percent of all students in public and private U.S. institutions. The Clearinghouse also provides thousands of high schools and districts with continuing collegiate enrollment, progression, and completion statistics on their alumni.

Through its verification, electronic exchange, and reporting services, the Clearinghouse saves the education community cumulatively nearly 500 million dollars annually. Most Clearinghouse services are provided to colleges and universities at little or no charge, including enhanced transcript and research services, enabling institutions to redistribute limited staff and budget resources to more important student service efforts. Clearinghouse services are designed to facilitate an institution’s compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, The Higher Education Act, and other applicable laws.

In addition, the Clearinghouse provides accurate, timely enrollment and degree verifications to student loan providers, employers, student credit issuers, the U.S. Department of Education, and others who access its registry more than half a billion times annually.

For more information, visit www.studentclearinghouse.org.

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