Monday, May 25, 2009

Effective Transfer

There was an interesting article in IHE Friday about the importance of that most mundane of topics, "articulation" between a CC and a nearby University to ensure that transfer students succeed. The focus was on Texas, with a number of examples coming from UTEP. The specific success of a very tight articulation between the UTEP engineering college and its neighboring CC (towards the end of the article) was particularly interesting to me. I need to look into what they did and how they documented the comparable skill level of their AA grads after they got a BS.

Having read a number of comments about the Texas system (or lack of one) from a commenter in (IIRC) Dean Dad's blog, I found the short discussion of "high policy" and "low policy" states lacking in depth. From what I can gather, Texas is in the middle with a defined "core" but no structure that ensures that an "Associates" degree meets that core. It was definitely weird to read about needing to design a computer search to find students who have the credits to earn an AA degree, but don't know it yet.

Ditto to read about "reverse transfers" who drop out of a university, come to a CC, and immediately (without even taking classes, it seems) earning an AA. Instant transcript laundering, it would seem. Do they just ditch all of the credits earned beyond two years, along with F grades and whatever, and start over as juniors at a new university? But I do agree that it would be a great way to build your "completion" rate - if it was true. The author of the article must not know that "reverse transfer" students are never counted in any of the federal statistics. Only the cohort that actually starts at a college (or university) is counted when figuring success rates.

We could have a 100% success rate at shaping up dropouts from nearby Wannabe Flagship, with every last one of them getting an AA and going on to complete a 4-year degree after they left our CC, and none of it would count in our favor.

So, now that you know this factoid, you have to wonder how the guy at North Texas can conclude that there is no difference in success of transfer students in states with a defined transfer curriculum (strong state-wide articulation) and those without (where students might have to re-take half of the classes they took at the CC after they transfer). What data are being used? Besides, I think success after transfer is more a matter of the relative rigor of the CC and Uni curricula (which affects the odds of failing classes) than it is of the number of classes that actually transfer with gen-ed credit (saving money and time).

Rigor cannot be enforced by state policy, or even a common course numbering system. Heck, you can't even guarantee that different sections of the same course at a particular college have the same rigor. I can see dramatic differences between some of the math sections at our college. Some get the concept of "prerequisite", others don't.


What makes for a truly effective transfer program?


The Thomas said...

Michigan has the Michigan Transfer Network which is sponsored by the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (MACRAO).

CCs with MACRAO ceritified curricula allow transfer to other schools within the state with no loss of credits.

The CCs arrange with specific colleges to match the classes so that no degree specific classes are lost to gen-ed credit and the normal university college courses (Math, Gen Humanities, Gen Science, and Writing) fulfill the associated requirements at the transferred to college.

Some work is involved on the part of the individual colleges to make this work.

The CCs can then advertize the ability to transfer without loss, so the student can shop accordingly.

Doctor Pion said...

That must be an example of a "low policy" state, but still quite an improvement over being a "no policy" state back in the olden days. Then the articulation was only between one CC and one college with additional complications introduced by semester/quarter calendars.

The Texas system eliminates the need for articulation (matching classes) between a specific CC and a specific university, so you can go from any CC to any university. However, they apparently (based on a blogger comment) require that an AA degree cover that state core. Since it sounded like a work in progress, maybe that last bit will come next. It takes several years to change graduation requirements, even at a CC.