July 2020 - Prior learning assessment, student perception of transferring earned credit, and segregation in higher ed

Dr. Wendy Kilgore |
July 30, 2020
  • Research
  • prior learning assessment
  • Student persistence
  • Transfer
  • Transfer Credit
  • Transfer Credit Evaluation

I hope you are all well. AACRAO Research has had a busy month and a half, and we have been able to release the results of two of our longer-term projects and others still in various stages of development. I reflect often during my workday how different this start of the fall term must be for many of you than years past. I wish you all the best.  

We have a member seeking participants for her dissertation research, please read below for further information.

AACRAO member seeking registrars to participate in a study about mentoring experiences. 

The study, “Becoming a mentor:  A narrative study of mentor identity formation among college and university registrars,” aims to understand the development of a mentor identity among college and university registrars between the ages of 35 and 55 who have mentored another person at work informally (e.g., not as part of a formal mentoring program).  My name is Adrienne Bricker; I am conducting this research for my Ed.D. degree at Northeastern University. I am inviting you to share a resume or similar document, create a simple timeline about your career path, and participate in two 45-60 minute interviews.  The purpose of the interviews is to understand your career path, experiences with being mentored (if any), and experiences in mentoring others.  The information learned from this study may assist practitioners and researchers to understand what registrars experience when they transition into a mentoring role and begin to see themselves as a mentor. If you would like to volunteer or have questions about this study, please email me at bricker.a@northeastern.edu. Messages sent to other email accounts or through social media will be deleted without response per Northeastern University IRB.


AACRAO Research Update

An Examination of Prior Learning Assessment Policy and Practice as Experienced by Academic Records Professionals and Students

This is the second brief from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)'s Recognizing Learning Initiative. Authored by AACRAO Director of Research Wendy Kilgore, this research was made possible by generous funding from the Lumina Foundation and  Strada Education Network

This brief is one part of a broad landscape analysis focused on policy and practice issues related to the recognition of prior learning. AACRAO surveyed more than 450 member institutions, from which some key findings included:

  • Eight out of 10 U.S. institutions offer one or more prior learning assessment (PLA) options to students

  • More than half charge a fee for one or more types of PLA, and few offer financial aid to offset the fee

  • A majority will not accept PLA in transfer

How Students Experience and Perceive Transferring Earned Credit

In this paper, we highlight a recent study by AACRAO and The American Council on Education (ACE) on students’ perceptions about how transfer credit was applied toward their academic program of study and the potential accumulation of excess credits at graduation. The study 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.

  • Most transfer students were aware of why they were not able to transfer all of their credit to their current institution.

  • Nearly 30 percent selected “grade earned in a course was not transferable,” and/or “change of major when transferring,” and/or “too many credits earned at the previous institution” as the known reasons for why some credits did not transfer.

  • 60 percent of those whose credits did not all transfer indicated they were “Neither pleased nor displeased” as they expected there to be some credits that would not transfer.

  • 58 percent of those who were displeased with the loss of credits selected better academic advising as a means to reduce credit loss potentially.

Figure 5 from the report included below highlights the reasons students selected for why their credits did not transfer.

AACRAO and ACE continue to partner on a larger project examining the relationship between institutional advising models/transfer credit evaluation policy/practice and their impact on how transfer credits are applied to the major. 

In-Progress: Stranded Credits, Transfer Credit Evaluation Policy and Practice

The survey on U.S. undergraduate student stranded credits and transfer credit evaluation policy and practice closed on July 24th. Two reports will be developed from this survey in the next several weeks. A couple of sneak peek data points from the stranded credits data include:

  • 92% of institutions bar a student from gaining access to their official transcript for an outstanding balance; of those, 63% withhold the transcript if a student owes less than $25.

  • 12% only notify the student of this hold when an official transcript is requested.

The data from the transfer credit evaluation policy and practice sections shed light on the complex process for awarding and applying transfer credit. For many transfer students, there are institutional limits on awarding transfer credit and applying it to the degree based on the following: the age of the course; the level of the course (upper division or lower division); the number of credits applicable to major, minor, general education and electives; grade earned; college credit earned while still in high school; college credit earned for prior learning; and the accreditation of the transfer institution. In addition, the survey found:

  • 23% of institutions only award transfer credit based on applicability to the major at the time of admissions and up to the limits in policy, even if there are more course equivalencies on the incoming transcript(s)

  • 33% do not have articulation rules built in to the student information system. Each course evaluation for each transfer student is determined at the time the transcript is evaluated for credit

  • 13% of institutions do not require incoming transfer students to meet with an academic advisor 

Current Higher Education Research and Related Topics

New Research from the Community College Research Center

CCRC released two new reports. The first examines data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 to see if there is an outcomes benefit to primarily four-year institution students simultaneously completing courses at a community college. Please see the image below from CCRC for some of their key findings.

The second paper reports the findings from the Engaging Adjunct Faculty in the Student Success Movement project. 

Education Trust: “Segregation Forever?” Report

Inside Higher Ed summarized a new report from the Education Trust on representation of students of color at 101 of the most selective universities in the country. Researchers found that there has been little to no improvement in the percentage of students of color enrolled since 2000.

Feelings of Non-Belonging Impact on Persistence

The results of a randomized intervention designed to increase a student’s sense of belonging and, subsequently, persistence were published in the Journal of Psychological Science. The intervention was implemented at a broad-access institution and consisted of a reading and writing exercise in the required first-year writing course. Similar to other research, students were asked to read stories from upper-year students about their academic and social challenges with college and complete a writing exercise around belonging. The researchers conclude that the intervention appears to help increase college persistence for socially disadvantaged students as compared to those in the control group.  

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