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Guaranteeing Better Outcomes in Higher Education by Providing Students a Guaranteed Path

Published Jul 20, 2021

Arizona, Illinois, and Virginia Join Forces with IHEP and HCM Strategists to Develop a Transformational Approach to Postsecondary Transfer Policy and Practice

WASHINGTON, DC (July 20, 2021) – Amid the health and economic crises that are disproportionately impacting Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and underserved AAPI students and students from low-income backgrounds – the very students who are most likely to start their higher education pathway at a community college – clear supports and equitable pathways to complete a degree across multiple institutions have never been more urgent. For every 100 students who enroll in community colleges, 31 students transfer to a four-year institution. Of those, only 14 complete a bachelor’s degree within six years. Too many students are derailed from their higher education goals by unexpected, unaffordable, and untenable—yet solvable—challenges along their transfer journey.

To address these challenges and ensure an affordable, clear, and efficient pathway to a bachelor’s degree, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), in partnership with HCM Strategists, launched TransferBOOST (Bachelor’s Opportunity Options that are Straightforward and Transparent). This multi-year state-level initiative will provide students a three-fold transfer affordability guarantee: their credits earned at one institution will transfer and apply to bachelor’s degree completion; their costs will be streamlined; and their time-to-degree will be minimized. After a rigorous review process, Arizona, Virginia, and Illinois were selected to pilot this innovative approach through a Transfer Action Committee in each state.

“The hardest part of a degree should be the learning required to earn the credits – not navigating red tape to ensure that they transfer,” said Mamie Voight, IHEP’s interim president. “At present, too many talented and motivated students are being waylaid by transfer policies that aren’t designed with students at the center. We’re going to change that. We know that by marshalling political will in the interest of deliberate, student-centered policy design, transfer affordability guarantees will be a win for students, families, communities, and the workforce in all three of these states.”

Drawing on years of furthering degree completion across the country, IHEP and HCM have partnered to activate institutions to rethink existing transfer policy and practice to ensure it meets the needs of today’s students, elevate transfer commitments, and reach students with simple clear messaging about affordable transfer pathways.

“Today’s students need – and deserve – a clear path to a degree and a clear promise from their institutions of the support – academic, advising, and financial – they need to navigate that path,” added Leanne Davis, Associate Director of Research and Policy. “IHEP and HCM will work with institutions in Arizona, Virginia, and Illinois that, combined, serve at least 20 percent of each state’s Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and underserved AAPI populations to ensure we reach students who stand most to benefit from the social mobility that higher education can provide.”

“Across the country, we see strong building blocks in place for transfer, but too few policies are utilized in a way that creates equitable access and outcomes for students by prioritizing clear costs and ease of navigation,” explained Cristen Moore, Director at HCM Strategists. “A successful transfer affordability guarantee includes simple, clear messaging about time and price to degree, and clear commitments that credits will transfer and apply to degree completion.

TransferBOOST is part of ECMC Foundation’s Catalyzing Transfer Initiative (CTI), a national shared learning and collaboration effort between high-impact non-profit organizations that aims to build, manage, and activate new ways to increase successful transfer of postsecondary credits and timely bachelor’s degree completion among marginalized racial and ethnic groups.