State launches new strategy to help transfer students earn 2-year degrees

Ohio among 12 states selected for $6.4M “Credit When It’s Due” project.

Ohio has been selected as one of 12 states to lead a $6.4 million initiative to award more associate degrees to community college students pursuing four-year credentials. The effort could help close the gap between the number of Ohioans with a college degree and the growing number of jobs that will require it.

Ohio was awarded $500,000 to join the “Credit When It’s Due” program to track community college students who complete the requirements for an associate degree after transferring to a four-year university, but who never apply for that two-year degree. Thousands of Ohioans could be eligible for an associate degree through the “reverse transfer” of credits.

“It matches up with (Gov. John Kasich’s) vision of more degrees equaling a better economy,” said Brett Visger, deputy chancellor of institutional collaboration for the Ohio Board of Regents.

“Having additional credentials helps position people for better jobs. The more Ohioans with credentials, the better off we are,” he said.

The grant will allow Ohio’s 23 community colleges, 13 public universities to offer a broad range of degrees and five regional campuses to develop a systematic approach to award degrees through reverse transfers. The state’s goal is to award 1,300 associate degrees during the next two years.

The reverse transfer process could be especially important to former community college students who dropped out while pursuing a bachelor’s degree at a university, and also never applied for an associate degree. The grant could also improve the graduation rates of community colleges, which is increasingly important as college presidents redesign the funding formula for schools to tie more money to competition.

About 75 percent of the nearly 49,800 students who enrolled in Ohio’s public universities after attending a community college transferred before receiving an associate degree, according to the Lumina Foundation, a national nonprofit committed to enrolling and graduating more people from college. The foundation awarded Ohio’s grant.

“‘Credit When It’s Due’ helps to ensure that students struggling financially can get a marketable credential on what is an increasingly long path to a bachelor’s degree,” said Bill Moses, program director for education at the Kresge Foundation, which also helped fund the $6.4 million project.

Nearly 36 percent of working age Ohioans have a degree, but 57 percent of new jobs through 2018 will require a credential. Jobs that require an associate degree are expected to grow 6 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. That is second only to the 7 percent growth for jobs that require graduate degrees.

About 9 percent of those Ohioans have an associate degree, and nearly 22 percent have some college, but no degree, according to the Lumina Foundation.

Clark State Community College has seen a growth in students earning associate degrees through reverse transfer since the school was involved in “Project Win-Win” in 2009-10, said David Devier, vice president of academic and student affairs. Prior to that, the college did not have any students transferring their credits back to earn two-year degrees.

“Any significant milestone like the conferring of a degree is important. But I think students can easily now focus on that if their focus is the baccalaureate,” he said.

“The state of Ohio and all of us are saying, ‘Let’s see if we can figure out ways to make it easy, painless, for these individuals. Our goal is, over time, to do more and more. To be more sophisticated at how we do this and more aggressive,” Devier added.