Bipartisan Bill Eases Pathway to Completion through Reverse Transfer while Protecting Privacy

September 15, 2017
  • AACRAO Press Releases
  • Hill Day
  • Reverse Transfer

Washington, DC – Yesterday, September 14, 2017, Rep. Messer (R-IN) & Rep. Polis (D-CO) introduced the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2017 (H.R. 3774), with the support of 17 higher education systems and several higher education associations (see full list below). H.R. 3774 goes hand in hand with the national imperative to increase U.S. college completion rates.

Every year in the U.S. about 25 percent of community college students transfer to four-year institutions in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. More than 30 percent of those transfer students drop out before completing their bachelor’s degree despite the fact that they have earned enough credits between both institutions to be awarded an associate’s degree.

Transfer students who earn 60 total combined credits can generally transfer their credits back to their community college in order to be awarded an associate’s degree. Many states and institutions around the country use the “reverse transfer” process to award diplomas thus increasing individual potential earnings over the student’s working life by $400,000 on average. However, many students who are eligible for reverse transfer do not know it. Between 2003 and 2013, nearly two million transfer students who were eligible for an associate’s degree were not awarded diplomas.

“Too often, transfer students are walking away from college without a degree,” Rep. Luke Messer said. “Our bill will make it easier for transfer students to combine credits and get a degree they’ve earned, even when life gets in the way. An associate’s degree can be a game changer, and help more Hoosiers get a better job and earn higher pay.”

“All level of skills are needed in our modern, global economy. Like all college degrees, a short-term certificate or an associate's degree can be the ticket to a better paying job,” Rep. Jared Polis said. “This legislation makes sure that students are able to get the degree they deserve. It is only fair that students are awarded an associate's degree if they already completed the coursework for it.”

H.R. 3774 will create a new exemption under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that will help community colleges determine who is eligible to receive an associate’s degrees through the reverse transfer process. Currently, FERPA regulates the sharing of student data between two and four-year institutions and generally limits the sharing of student credit information between institutions. This bipartisan bill will permit the disclosure of students’ postsecondary coursework and credit information to an institution at which the student was previously enrolled exclusively for the purpose of applying such coursework and credits toward completion of a recognized postsecondary credential. The bill stipulates that the student must provide written consent prior to receiving such credential.

Rep Messer and Rep Polis have worked closely with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), and other higher education partners and institutions, to ensure the bill will increase the flexibility to complete an assessment of student records and adhere to FERPA standards, whose sole purpose is to protect the privacy of student education records.

“Reverse Transfer has become an important initiative for increasing educational attainment in many states,” said Michael Reilly, Executive Director, AACRAO. “Facilitating this practice within the rules of FERPA will enable institutions to share information for the purpose of determining whether students have earned a credential through their combined coursework.”

AACRAO Board members and staff will be on the Hill in the coming weeks gathering more support for this important bill.

Support from:

Higher Education Systems

Arkansas Department of Higher Education

The City University of New York (CUNY)

The College System of Tennessee

Colorado Department of Higher Education

Indiana Commission for Higher Education

Ivy Tech Community College

Maricopa County Community College District

Michigan Community College Association

North Carolina Community College System

Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

Oregon Community College Association

The State of Tennessee Higher Education Commission

The State University of New York System (SUNY)

The University of Colorado - All Campuses

The University of Tennessee System

The University of Texas System

Virginia Community College System

Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges

National Associations

American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (AACRAO)

American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)

Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)

Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP)

Student Veterans of America (SVA)

Regional Associations

The Rocky Mountain Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (RMACRAO)

Southern Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (SACRAO)

Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (TACRAO)

AACRAO is a non-profit, voluntary, professional association of more than 11,000 higher education professionals representing approximately 2,600 institutions in more than 40 countries. Its commitment to the professional development of its members includes best practice guidance on admissions strategies to meet institutional diversity objectives, delivery of academic programs in innovative ways to meet the needs of a changing student body, and exemplary approaches to student retention and completion.