Defining Transfer

May 31, 2022
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • Re-Envisioning Transfer
  • Technology and Transfer
Artist representation of two open minds sharing knowledge.

By Seth Marc Kamen

In its early days, Transfer referred to the simple process of moving between institutions. Students who wished to switch institutions petitioned for admission and enrolled if selected. In the late 20th century, Transfer became more complicated as we started accepting courses between majors and enhancing Transfer student support systems. We started using Transfer and Articulation to describe the process because they made sense: students moved between places, and institutions provided a clear and easy path. 

Nowadays, Transfer means more than just the student and the path. Unfortunately, the term is as complex as the experience and the student. Transfer is a product of need and knowledge, and it's time that we re-evaluate our terminology to make it more user-friendly.

Of course, this isn't so simple, as terminology changes at every level, sometimes even within an institution. Therefore, an essential first step in ensuring Transfer success is clearly defining terms and concepts at your institution, partner institutions, and even within your state or province. Some suggestions for starting may be:

  • Transfer: The encompassing collaboration of helping students move between entities. This may include institution to institution, or it may consist of students who move between colleges or majors within the same institution, often referred to as internal transfers, for clarity.)
  • Articulation: The process of equating coursework between institutions (may include course to course, program to program, general education or block credit, international, credit for prior learning or by exam, competency-based, etc.).
  • Partnership Agreements: Institutional, state (provincial), regional, or global agreements that assist students in transferring between institutions (may include course to course, MOUs, dual admission/enrollment, etc.) We currently use many titles, including articulation agreements, MOUs, Transfer pathways, etc. However, using a singular title is recommended to help students (and their supporters) find the information on your web pages or catalogs via the search engine.
  • Transfer Students: Any group of students moving between two entities. For clarity, it's important to identify who makes up the Transfer population (usually by the number of credits needed) and which populations are more likely to be transferred (i.e., adults and military). As important as it is to identify who is a Transfer, it's also just as important to identify who is not (i.e., dual enrollment, students with AP credits). 

As you build out and agree on definitions, make sure to share them with the community: define them on web pages, share them for feedback and questions via shared governance, incorporate them into outreach and recruitment materials, include them in new employee training or employee handbooks, and above all else, use them as appropriate. 

AACRAO Consulting can help you explore Transfer at your institution. To further explore these ideas and others, register to attend the upcoming Technology/Transfer Summit held virtually on July 12 – 14.


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