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Transfer Guide: College and University Transfer Policies

December 30, 1899


What is transfer credit?

Transfer credit refers to the credit a college or university grants for prior learning. When you move from one college or university to another, the credit from the courses and degrees you took at the old institutions might or might not be accepted by your new institution. Each educational institution makes its own decisions about accepting transfer credit.

How do colleges and universities use ACE credit recommendations?

Transfer decisions are most often made by academic deans, department chairs, or chief academic officers (sometimes called provosts). The award of credit is administered by the appropriate office (i.e., admissions, registrar, transfer center, etc.).

In making transfer credit decisions, colleges consider comparability of credit to be transferred to the receiving institution and appropriate applicability of the credit in relation to your selected program of study.

Academic institutions establish their own transfer credit policies and procedures. Institutions look for evidence that the learning you acquired through military training courses or experience directly relates to the objectives of the academic courses the institution offers. For example, if you have a credit recommendation for technical mathematics, you might receive transfer credit for a course with a similar title, but you may not get credit for college algebra.

Your selected program of study will also have a significant impact on the amount and type of credit you may receive. For example, if you have several credit recommendations in electronics, but you are enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Psychology program, you will find that very few, if any, of these credit recommendations will result in the award of transfer credit. However, even if your credit recommendations are not applicable to your major, you may be able to use them as free elective credit.

When the college or university determines whether and how much credit to apply to your individual record, that credit will then appear on your transcript. Typically, grades are not included with the transfer process, so they are not factored in as part of the grade point average (GPA).

How do ACE credit recommendations and course descriptions compare?

Transferring courses involves determining the direct alignment of specific subject matter to the courses that are part of a detailed curriculum plan. Therefore, a computer applications course will not meet the foreign language requirement of a degree plan. An engineering credit recommendation may not meet the specific requirements of a mathematics course, although math is included with the engineering recommendation.

In the working example below, we compare the typical information included in an ACE credit recommendation for a military course to the information from a college class description.

Credit Transfer Working Example

Typical information included in an ACE credit recommendation for a military training course:

  • Credit Recommendation: In the lower-division baccalaureate/associate degree category, 3 semester hours in computer systems applications.
  • Overall Course Description:  The course provides students with the skills to operate a computer system, including installing and configuring applications and software.
  • Learning Outcomes: The student will be able to configure application installation; perform system operation; install software; and perform software analysis.

Sample information included in a college class titled, "Introduction to Computer Applications":

  • Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of the course, the student will be able to:
    • Analyze, synthesize and evaluate numerical data with spreadsheet applications
    • Apply file management skills such as: create, save, copy, move, rename, delete, and organize data files
    • Create a relational database, table structure, queries, reports, and forms
    • Incorporate various types of visual elements such as images, tables, charts, audio, or video for effective communication
    • Organize information by inputting and updating data in a relational database
    • Utilize real-world models and examples to create, format, edit, and print professionally-formatted word-processed documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases

As you can see, both the ACE credit recommendation and the college class description refer to “computer applications,” however what is being taught in the college class does not match what the service member learned in the military training course. Therefore, it is not likely that this example would result in the award of transfer credit.

How do I research transfer policies?

Academic institutions establish their own transfer credit policies and procedures. When you are thinking about transferring credit, you should find out what the institution’s policies are so you can make the most of your credit recommendations. Here are some tips on how to research transfer policies:

  • Look at the institution’s catalog or bulletin.
  • Search the institution’s website. You may want to search for keywords such as transfer credit, military transfer credit, or transfer policies.
  • Keep in mind that in some cases, academic divisions or departments establish supplemental policies on how credit can be applied, how much credit can be transferred, and the nature of credit accepted.
  • Look for specific requirements for credit being transferred from:
    • Another accredited academic institution
    • The military
    • Professional training
    • Testing

For general information on transfer policies, read The Joint Statement on the Transfer and Award of Credit.  The Joint Statement was developed by the three national associations whose member institutions are directly involved in the transfer and award of academic credit:

  1. American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers
  2. American Council on Education
  3. Council for Higher Education Accreditation

What are the different types of degree requirements?

Requirements for degrees vary according to the major and minor and help to ensure a student acquires a mastery of a considerable body of knowledge in a specific academic suject area or group of related subjects. Requirements generally include the following types of credits:

  • General Education Requirements - The core courses all students must take to graduate. Courses may include communication, mathematics, problem solving, natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts.
  • Major Requirements - The courses required to complete a major in the selected field of study.
  • Electives - Additional courses in the selected field of study. You may be required to take a certain number of credits in your major, but you can choose which courses to take to fulfill that requirement. Free electives are courses you choose to take outside of your general education requirements and selected major.

What are curriculum maps or degree plans?

A curriculum map or a degree plan spells out the courses you need to take to get a degree in a particular program. You can usually find this information in the institution’s catalog.

This tool will assist you, and your academic adviser, in mapping out the courses you will need to complete for your program of study. It’s also a useful reference in identifying potential courses for transfer.

Some degree plans break down courses into lower-division and upper-division requirements. Others are divided by general education requirements, major requirements, and then electives. Review your curriculum plan and do not hesitate to ask questions.

How much credit can I expect to receive for my military training?

Colleges often have options for students to demonstrate college-level knowledge they’ve gained through prior learning. Students should check with an adviser, or look in the college’s catalog or website for information about prior learning assessment.

The type and amount of credit awarded depend on several factors:

  • The institution’s transfer policies - Some colleges will award credit for military training courses but not for military occupational specialties (MOS).  Some award credit for all degree requirements, while others award credit only for free electives. Still others will award credit only for lower-division courses and yet others restrict transfer credit to those recommended at the upper division.
  • Appropriateness to your selected major - The military transcript of a student with 12 years of military experience as a computer technician is likely to include several credit recommendations not only in the technical area but also for leadership, management, and supervision. And yet, other students enrolled in what would appear to be similar areas of concentration may not receive the same credit. This normally occurs when there is a gap in comparability between a student’s military training and the academic courses required for the degree. For example, a Bachelor of Science in computer science degree program is unlikely to require courses in computer repair and troubleshooting or technical math. At the same time, these courses may be part of a degree program in electrical or computer engineering technology.
  • Currency of training - In some fields, such as computer technology, it matters a great deal when the student acquired the knowledge or took the training.  Training completed 10 years ago may no longer be compatible with current college curricula.

How do I appeal a transfer decision?

Most academic institutions have appeal procedures that are explained in their catalogs. Obtain a copy of these policies from your institution.

When you submit an appeal, be specific and concise. Provide supplemental information such as a syllabus, course description, a letter from a faculty member, or a text reference that will support your position and document the learning and credit recommendation alignment. In some cases, you may have to complete a separate form or application.

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