Higher Ed, Pathways

Tackling Transfer Credit Practices Through Transparency and Technology

Parchment Staff  •  Jul 07, 2023  •  Blog
transfer credit practices

The challenges with transfer are well-documented and well-publicized across higher education. From lost credits to manual institutional processes to confusing admissions requirements, it’s not easy for students to move from one institution to another. And even if they are able to transfer institutions, it’s likely that they’ll lose some of their hard-earned credits – up to 13 units or 43% of their credits, according to the National Center for Education Studies (NCES).

But despite these challenges, 1.2 million students were transfer students in Fall 2022, according to the latest data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. And if the past predicts the future, we can only expect these numbers to remain strong.

While it’s true that the current process for transferring credits can be complex and confusing, there are also opportunities to improve it and simplify it – both for students and the institutions that serve them. The question is, where should we start?

Two Ways to Tackle Transfer

While there are many places where we could begin, we believe there are two areas that, if improved, would immediately make an impact on credit transfer practices: transparency and technology. In fact, we believe they go hand-in-hand.

Improving Transfer Transparency

First let’s look at transparency. With transfer students losing 43% of their credits on average, it’s clear that the process of transferring credits isn’t, well, clear. Too often, students don’t understand or misunderstand how the credits they’ve earned transfer from one institution to another. Institutional policies and practices are murky, leaving students uncertain how their prior coursework will transfer and apply to the institution they want to attend.

Instead, institutions should make their transfer credit practices more transparent. Students need the ability to quickly determine if their existing credits transfer – or if they don’t. And if they do transfer, they need to be clear about how the credits will apply towards their major and institutional graduation requirements.

By making transfer credit practices more transparent, students will gain a clearer picture of what their new path to graduation looks like before they ever step foot on the campus they wish to attend. That way, they can ensure that they are spending their valuable time and money on the courses they need – not on courses they need to repeat or that won’t apply at their next institution.

Supporting Transfer Through Technology

Which brings us to our second point: technology. Having the right technology is key to increasing transparency.

When looking for technology to support and improve their process for transferring credits, institutions should first look for solutions that provide an up-to-date and comprehensive transfer articulation database. Students need the ability to easily search equivalencies so that they can see whether – and how – their existing coursework will transfer to the institution they wish to attend, or to see how their credits will transfer to multiple institutions. By searching for specific general education requirements and courses in their target major, students can gain a clear picture of what will – and will not – transfer, and how those credits will apply. And this helps them to avoid credit loss.

Second, institutions should embrace tools that help them manage equivalencies and articulation workflows more efficiently. By automating articulation workflows, it’s easier for institutions to keep their data up-to-date, which, in turn, means that students have access to the most current information.

Smoothing the Process of Transferring Credits With Parchment

The State of Maryland is tackling their transfer challenges head-on, and the University System of Maryland’s (USM) partnership with Parchment plays a critical role by giving students attending 36 institutions across USM, Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC), Maryland Independent College and University Association (MICUA), and two other public state institutions the ability to easily transfer credits and keep up with the status of those transfers. Through ARTSYS powered by Parchment, students across the state will benefit from better visibility into student pathways and an optimized system and process.

Improving student mobility is a key focus for Parchment’s Pathways suite of products. The Transfer Articulation product simplifies the process of transferring credits by helping students find the transferable courses they need to successfully complete their degree or program. By automating and streamlining articulation workflows, equivalency management becomes easier and more efficient for institutions as well. And when combined with Parchment Course Sharing, institutions can make equivalencies actionable, making it easy for students to find and register for transferable courses, all in one comprehensive solution.

Improving transfer is a tall task, and one that many institutions, consortia, and states are dedicated to supporting. But when you find ways to adopt the right technology and improve transparency, you’re taking two big steps in the right direction. To learn more about how Parchment’s Pathways solutions can help you improve transfer articulation management and transfer success, let’s talk.

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