Students' perception of credit transfer experience

July 25, 2020
  • Transfer and Articulation
  • Transfer Credit Practices

A national study from AACRAO and the American Council on Education (ACE) finds that students tend to have positive and realistic perceptions of transfer credit — contradicting the common narrative that transfer experiences are confusing, opaque, or frustrating.  AACRAO and ACE are partnering to share study conclusions and implications for practice in a September 9 webinar.

According to the report, “A National Snapshot: How Students Experience and Perceive Transferring Earned Credit,” more than half of transfer students successfully transfer all credit. Among students not successful in transferring all credit, most were aware of why the credit did not transfer, knew some credit would be lost, and were not displeased with the result.

The study, developed by AACRAO, ACE and ED2WORK, sheds light on transfer students’ opinions about the application and award of their transfer credit, including credit loss, the information that helped or hindered their decision-making in the transfer process, the barriers and enablers to their successful transfer of credit, and how they felt about the credits that did not transfer. It included 1,003 currently enrolled domestic students. Of the respondents, 65 percent were enrolled at a public institution, 35 percent at a private institution; 78 percent transferred from a public institution and 22 percent from a private institution.  

Other findings include:

  • Students that successfully transferred all credits listed advising as the top resource that helped them do so. 

  • Students unable to transfer all credits also listed academic advising as the resource that could have been more helpful in the transfer process. 

  • Most students feel that their transfer institution and their current institution have resources in place to help with the transfer process.

  • Dual enrollment courses have a role in the credit loss story for almost a third of students who lost credit.

Join the September 9 webinar focusing on the experiences and perceptions of students attempting to transfer credits from one institution to another. We will also share students' attitude about any credits that did not transfer in the process.  Conclusions and implications for practice will be shared.

Transfer is an increasingly routine part of students’ higher education journeys. According to a 2018 snapshot from National Student Clearinghouse, more than a million students — 38 percent of the 2.8 million entering college for the first time in fall 2011 — transferred to a different institution at least once within six years.

“Understanding how students make decisions about the transfer process is vital to ensuring that institutions do not exacerbate existing inequities and inefficiencies in the transfer process when implementing transfer policies and practices,” write study authors Wendy Kilgore, director of research for AACRAO; Steven Taylor, founder and CEO of ED2WORK®; and Karina Pineda, policy research analyst at ACE.

“Similarly, knowing the reasons students cite for losing credits in the transfer process can help institutions anticipate and prepare for the needs of transfer students, reduce friction in the transfer of credit process, and improve the accuracy and transparency of information students need to make transfer decisions.”

The paper, “A National Snapshot: How Students Experience and Perceive Transferring Earned Credit,” was commissioned by ACE, with support from the Charles Koch Foundation, as part of the National Task Force on Transfer of Credit and will inform the Task Force’s final report to be published next year. Read the full report.