ACE Task Force Releases Report, Recommendations on Transfer of Credit Practices
March 22, 2021

​An ACE Task Force of college and university presidents and chancellors released a report today offering recommendations and best practices to higher education leaders on how to modify existing transfer and award of credit practices to best support student success.

The report, “Reimagining Transfer for Student Success: The National Task Force on the Transfer and Award of Credit,” offers six concrete recommendations that will enable higher education leaders to carry out more seamless and efficient transfer and award of credit on their campuses. The report comes at a time when college students are becoming more mobile, moving in and out as well as through multiple colleges and universities and other learning environments, such as military service or the workforce.

The Task Force acknowledged that tracking, validating, and awarding academic credit for learning that occurred elsewhere has become a stumbling block for many institutions in their efforts to serve students. The Task Force and report are supported by a generous grant from Strada Education Network. Additional support from the Charles Koch Foundation funded a series of white papers and original research that informed the Task Force's work.

“The need to review and revise transfer policies for institutions has taken on new urgency, with the worst pandemic in a century placing unprecedented stresses on students, families, and institutions,” said Anne Holton, co-chair of the Task Force and former interim president of George Mason University. “By shedding unnecessary barriers to students’ success, institutions can help ease individual students’ pathways to degrees, strengthen public trust in higher education, and reaffirm their value as an engine of economic and social mobility and justice.”

“We hope that our fellow presidents and chancellors across the country will consider the recommendations in the spirit they are given, from a cross-section of fellow leaders and with the best interests of students and the diverse needs of institutions in mind,” said Tim White, co-chair of the Task Force and chancellor emeritus of California State University. He further added, “Taking steps such as embedding the award of transfer credit into the culture of an institution and removing unnecessary obstacles that block students’ ability to continue with their education can make an enormous positive impact across American higher education.”

Research suggests that transfer student equity gaps have failed to budge over time, raising questions about the effectiveness of existing transfer policies and practices. With the increased focus on racial injustice and widening socioeconomic gaps, the Task Force is calling on higher education leaders to reduce barriers for the most vulnerable students to enable them to transfer, persist, and complete their degree.“

The global health crisis and the resulting economic fallout have widened equity gaps and threatened two decades’ worth of gains in access to higher education for first-generation, low-income students, and students of color,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “Improving transfer and award of credit practices won’t address all these unprecedented challenges but it is a necessary and critical component to supporting student success going forward.”

The Task Force developed six recommendations for institutions:

  1. Prioritize the award of transfer credit and credit for prior learning, and its application to degree requirements, as an essential component of student success. Embed this priority throughout the culture of your institution.
  2. Adjust your institution’s end-to-end policies and practices to improve the ability of students to receive credit for learning already acquired, including removing unnecessary obstacles that prevent students from accessing their transcripts to continue their education at another institution.
  3. Leverage innovative technologies to facilitate the review of credit, to provide greater consistency across credit award determinations, and to increase the efficiency and timeliness of the process.
  4. Improve transparency by making clear upfront what credits will be awarded and how they will be applied to a student’s degree pathway.
  5. Dedicate the resources necessary to ensure quality advising that provides students with early, knowledgeable, and personalized information and guidance at key points throughout the course of their learning pathway. Implement a cross-institutional advising approach with key transfer partners to the maximum extent possible.
  6. Partner with your most frequent sending or receiving transfer institutions to implement articulation agreements and structured pathways to increase the transfer and award of credit toward degree requirements.

“Our research shows that a third of working-age adults have canceled or changed their plans due to the pandemic, with a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino individuals. At the same time, interest in future enrollment has been growing, but institutional policies can create barriers,” said Tom Dawson, Strada Education Network interim president and chief executive officer. “Transfer and credit for prior learning practices, like those recommended in this report, that remove friction and provide every opportunity for learners to regain momentum in their pursuit of postsecondary education are more important than ever, particularly for those who have been too long excluded.”

“Flexible educational opportunities can unlock a student’s potential, so it’s all the more important that colleges and universities proactively remove unnecessary barriers like outdated credit transfer policies and practices,” said Charles Koch Foundation Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “We think this research and the Task Force’s broader efforts are important steps toward ensuring there are educational opportunities that truly meet the needs of all learners.”

The National Task Force on the Transfer and Award of Credit was convened by ACE in March 2020 with the aim of improving transfer and award of credit practices in an effort to spur student success and reduce the cost and time to complete a degree. Composed of more than two dozen college and university presidents and chancellors from institutions nationwide—two- and four-year, public and private—the Task Force spent the past year assessing critical topics related to transfer and award of credit. Also contributing were ex-officio Task Force members representing several higher education associations, regional accreditors, and experts and practitioners involved with transfer credit at their institutions. ACE will be holding a convening on transfer issues later this year.

Click here for a full list of the Task Force members and to download the report.

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