Institutional goals drive transfer policy

April 5, 2016
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • AACRAO Connect
  • Transfer and Articulation
Hand reaching for a black colored Queen chess piece.

by Christine Kerlin, AACRAO Consultant

The AACRAO 2017 Annual Meeting roundtable on “Transfer Best Practices,” moderated by Seth Kamen, Articulation, Transfer and Academic Services Manager at Montgomery College, attracted about 80 people, mostly from baccalaureate institutions. Topics and questions generated by the participants ranged widely from the use of college credits earned by high school students, to faculty decision-making in the credit evaluation process, to limits on the number of transferable credits, to which office performs the credential evaluations, to age limits on transfer credit, to credit for study abroad, and beyond.

Goals should drive policy

It is an understatement to say that “different colleges do different things,” as one participant said. Campus culture, institutional history and mission, human resources, legislative mandates, and the economics of student demand all play a role in how transfer policies and practices on individual campuses evolve.  For example, several participants reported more generous or flexible policies and practices that are congruent with their institution’s mission to serve adult students, while other participants followed more conservative policies and practices that reflect enrollment of more traditional students.  Furthermore, as one participant pointed out, it is possible to see that transfer credit policies can be driven by the need to be accommodating to transfer students who are needed to help the institution meet enrollment goals.

Sticky issues: Financial aid and accreditation

Two of the topics presented interesting questions: 

1) There was not consensus on how some financial aid regulations may affect the number of transfer credits accepted and/or applied to a degree. Some participants indicated they receive direction from their financial aid director to record only applicable transfer credit, and others indicated they receive direction to record all transfer credit, whether applicable or not.  

2) The majority of participants indicated by raised hand that they will not accept credit from non-regionally accredited institutions.  While each institution is responsible for determining its own policies and practices in transfer, acceptance, and award of credit, the brief discussion revealed a sense that institutions were making transfer decisions solely on the source of accreditation of a sending institution.  Such a posture is not supported in the 2001 Joint Statement on Transfer and Award of Credit which states that “While acknowledging that accreditation is an important factor, receiving institutions ought to make clear their institutional reasons for accepting or not accepting credits that students seek to transfer.”  It might be helpful for AACRAO to visit these topics in future discussions about best practices in transfer credit.    

With that said, however, it is evident that by and large there is a fairly well-understood set of general principles regarding the key elements of credential evaluation, such as reviewing the level of credit, consistency, and assuring that transfer credit matches the student’s preparation for further coursework. This session revealed a strong commitment by the participants to the quality of their work and service to students and their institutions.


For more insight on transfer practices, check out these AACRAO publications:

The Transfer Handbook

Transfer Credit Practices 


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