4 principles behind transfer best practices

November 13, 2017
  • AACRAO Connect
  • Transfer and Articulation
Male in a green shirt standing in front of a blackboard with arrows drawn on it all pointing off in the same direction.

“To ensure transparency and fairness, institutions need to be upfront with students about the extent to which certain kinds of credit will be acceptable in preparing them for whatever educational goal they may seek," says Stephen Handel, Associate Vice President with the University of California System.

Toward that end, AACRAO has released “A Guide to Best Practices: Transfer and Prior Learning Credit,” a working document designed to provide institutions with a framework for building a comprehensive transfer and prior learning credit policy.

Beyond the Joint Statement

The guide was first envisioned to be a reworking of the Joint Statement on the Awarding of Transfer Credit; however, AACRAO constituents requested something more comprehensive. Therefore, this guide goes further, helping guide members through the steps, offering suggestions to take back to their campuses, and establishing best practices. Feedback sessions at various AACRAO meetings and a sixty-second survey provided the content for the guide. (The Joint Statement was independently updated and released in September 2017. )

"The transfer credit guide is designed fundamentally to help colleges and universities to think proactively and productively about how they wish to review and award transfer credit,” says Handel, a member of the workgroup.* “Students today have many more opportunities to earn college-level credit.

Divided into multiple parts, the guide provides suggestions in the areas of determining course equivalencies (credit conversion, credit limits, expiration of credit), evaluating and transcripting credit (internal processes), partnerships and non-traditional credit (articulation agreements, home-schooled credit, nontraditional exams), and institutional and student rights and responsibilities (transcripts, appeal process, residency). Each area includes recommendations for including statements within a transfer credit policy, some are best practices while others are suggestions for wording. None of the recommendations in the guide are requirements.

4 guiding principles

Four guiding principles drive the recommendations, including (a) Students have the right to clearly know how credits transfer, (b) Institutions should develop policies that help prepare students for the transition, (c) Both institutions and students have responsibilities in the transfer process, and (d) Transfer Credit policies should reflect the mission and goals of the institution.

The guide also includes a “Transfer Student Bill of Rights,” a list of concepts that AACRAO feels all students should be afforded. “Today’s students are more mobile than ever, finding themselves starting degrees at one postsecondary institution and then finishing at another,” says committee member Becky Klein-Collins, Associate Vice President of Research and Policy Development at CAEL, “the bill of rights is designed to help make transfer policies more transparent and fair for the student, so that the student isn’t hurt by the valid choices that he or she makes in their educational journey.”

Moving forward

Find the Guide on the Transfer Initiatives Website. And look for review sessions at the 2018 AACRAO Annual Meeting and the 2018 Tech and Transfer Conference, and for future Connect articles on specific areas covered in Guide, and a forthcoming “Institution Bill of Rights.”


*Full list of workgroup members:

Seth Marc Kamen (Chair), Director of Transfer and Prior Learning, Montgomery College

Kelly Brooks, Registrar, Capella University

Lee Furbeck, Director, Undergraduate Admissions and Student Transitions, Cleveland State Universit

Stephen J. Handel, Associate Vice President—Undergraduate Admissions, University of California System

Luisa M. Havens Gerardo, Vice Provost of Enrollment Services, Virginia Tech

Becky Klein-Collins, Associate Vice President of Research and Policy Development, Council on Adult and Experiential Learning, WICHE

Mary Beth Lakin, Director, College and University Partnerships Center for Education Attainment and Innovation, American Council on Education

Jason Langdon, Executive Director for AP Higher Education Outreach, College Board

Michael Reilly, Executive Director, AACRAO

Katie Schwienteck, Acting Director of Admissions & Director of Transfer Admissions, York College of Pennsylvania

Jane Sherman, Passport State Coordinator, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)

Ariana Stafford, Director of Admissions, Everett Community College



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