Ithaka S+R to Expand Transfer Improvement Efforts with CUNY

With Support from the Petrie Foundation, ACT Project Expands from Three to Seven CUNY Campuses 

by Martin KurzweilCindy LeAlexandra W. Logue

(Reposted with permission from the Ithaka S+R blog:

When students transfer from one college to another they frequently are unable to count their previously earned credits toward degree requirements at their new institutions, jeopardizing these students’ ability to earn their degrees. Nationally, 43 percent of credits are wasted during transfer, and students who lose that many credits are far less likely to graduate than students who are able to transfer most of their credits. While other categories of enrollment have declined during the COVID-19 crisis, the number of students transferring from community colleges to four-year colleges has increased. Failing to facilitate the acceptance of credit will mean that these students will waste credits when they can least afford to do so.

Since June 2019, Ithaka S+R has been working with The City University of New York to improve transfer data and advising through the Articulation of Credit Transfer (ACT) project. Our ultimate goal is to enable students to count all previously earned credits toward their degree programs when they transfer between CUNY institutions, greatly increasing their likelihood of graduating and making their education more affordable. Innovations developed through this project include the online tool Transfer Explorer, which for the first time allows anyone to see how courses at one CUNY college are treated at any other CUNY college after transfer. Since its launch in May 2020, 8,000 users have accessed Transfer Explorer more than 13,000 times. 

Generous funding from the Heckscher Foundation for Children has allowed us to focus these efforts, to date, on the three CUNY institutions in the Bronx: Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, and Lehman College.

We are now pleased to announce a new grant from the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation that will expand the project to four additional CUNY campuses: Brooklyn College, Guttman Community College, Queens College, and Queensborough Community College. Beginning in January 2021, ACT will be working to improve student transfer at seven of CUNY’s 20 undergraduate campuses, in four of five boroughs.  

All of ACT’s partners will be focused on several key workstreams:

  • Establishing an ongoing, analyzable database of degree audit data and implementing real-time review of how transferred courses apply to degree requirements.
  • Analyzing Transfer Explorer data and the degree audit database to identify course equivalencies and program requirements that violate existing policy or otherwise harm students, and developing policy and process interventions to respond to them. 
  • Incorporating Transfer Explorer into transfer advising.
  • Utilizing the administrator- and faculty-facing workflow management tool in Transfer Explorer to significantly accelerate transfer credit evaluations.
  • Identifying and implementing other improvements in transfer credit evaluation, transfer advising, and reverse transfer policies and processes through an iterative approach involving data analysis, process mapping, and testing of solutions. 

ACT’s progress to date suggests these efforts will have a major impact on student transfer success. For example, in Spring 2020, reports generated from the archived degree audit data allowed Lehman and Hostos staff to identify and contact more than 220 transfer applicants to share preliminary transfer credit information for their intended majors, to facilitate optimal course decisions when they transfer, and to ensure ongoing support throughout their transfer process. For about five percent of these students, the resulting increase in registered credits counting toward their degrees made them eligible to receive New York State Tuition Assistance that they otherwise would not have received. 

ACT’s accumulation of student-level improvements has put more transfer students on track to graduate. Just during ACT’s first year, the share of Hostos-to-Lehman transfer students who had any transfer credits that did not count toward their degree declined from 42 percent in Fall 2019 to 39 percent in Fall 2020. Among those students with credits that did not count, the average share of credits that did not count declined from 18 percent to 15 percent.  

Improving students’ transfer experience matters more now than ever before. The data analysis, transparency, process, and advising efforts of ACT have borne fruit in the Bronx. Thanks to the Petrie Foundation, we look forward to working with a new set of partners at Brooklyn College, Guttman Community College, Queens College, and Queensborough Community College to support their transfer students.   

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