Georgia helps students earn associate’s degrees

Reverse Transfer Initiative could help thousands of students earn associate’s degrees

associates-degreesThe University System of Georgia (USG) has joined forces with Parchment, an academic credentials management system, to help award the thousands of Georgia citizens who have some college, but no degree, with associate’s degrees they may have unknowingly earned.

“Today there are thousands of Georgians who have invested some time in college without completion of enough courses to earn a bachelor’s degree,” said Dr. Barbara L. Brown, assistant vice chancellor for transitional and general education with the University System of Georgia. “The courses these students did complete, however, may qualify them for their associate’s degrees.”

USG has created a program, “Credit When It’s Due”, funded by a grant from Lumina Foundation, to increase the number of Georgia citizens with associate’s degrees by identifying former students who have met the requirements for associate’s degrees but have not actually received the degree. This project, a form of ‘reverse transfer’, is part of Georgia’s goal to increase the number of citizens with high-quality education credentials.

“We had been stumped by the technological demands of the project,” said Brown. “One of the main obstacles USG faced in building a reverse transfer strategy was the collection of all the required consents from students to participate and to exchange records, as required by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). After surveying the market, USG determined that Parchment’s Reverse Transfer system was the only vendor solution that provides this critical capability as a standard feature.”

Digitizing credentials is proven to streamline operations for both the sending and receiving institutions, and enables receiving colleges and universities to use the data to support reverse transfer. From the beginning, it took Parchment seven years to deliver one million credentials, and now the organization delivers one million transcripts every two months, and reached the 20 million milestone in July 2015. Today, more than 15 percent of postsecondary enrollments in the United States attend institutions that are members of Parchment’s network.

Students eligible for the Credit When It’s Due program will be contacted through email and encouraged to apply for an associate’s degree. By applying, the student’s academic credentials will be exchanged through Parchment, providing their credentials to the associate degree institution to verify the courses completed. There will be no cost to the student; all costs will be covered by the Lumina Foundation grant.

Recent research published by the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), the National Student Clearinghouse and the Community College Research Center (at Teachers College, Columbia University) suggests that award of the associate degree may actually increase the likelihood that the student will also earn a bachelor’s degree, perhaps by serving as a milestone along the path to the degree. In addition, having an associate’s degree may qualify students for positions that they could not previously have applied for, for promotion and for higher pay than non-degreed students.

Three USG institutions are piloting the process for credit exchange, dubbed ADD for “Associate Degree you Deserve” in 2015. East Georgia State College, Georgia Southern University, and Georgia Regents University, which had existing relationships to award associate’s degrees, are serving as the pilot institutions. In late fall of 2015 and early spring of 2016, the process will expand to all USG institutions. Up to 8,000 USG students each year may qualify for associate’s degrees they did not know they had earned.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione