Kentucky’s educational North Star is the 60 by 30 attainment goal—to have 60 percent of our working-age population with a degree or credential by the year 2030. This goal, developed through extensive data analysis, is focused on developing a highly skilled workforce to keep the state’s economy thriving. We have made a lot of progress towards that goal, but we have more work to do. And some of this important work centers around promoting and facilitating the transfer of students and credits among institutions.
Transfer has always been a major element of the work of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE). It’s one of the objectives in the statewide postsecondary education strategic agenda, as well as a primary statutory duty. For the past decade, through legislation and policy, CPE has simplified the transfer process in important ways:
- We’ve created a statewide general education core of 30 credit hours that are accepted for transfer at any public institution. Kentucky departs from the typical course-to-course comparisons as a basis for transfer and instead focuses on the acquisition of identified learning outcomes, thus increasing flexibility in course transfer.
- We’ve created guidelines for awarding credit earned outside of a college classroom. State law requires college credit for students who score 3 or higher on AP exams, and we have worked with institutions to identify course equivalencies for CLEP, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge International and DSST exams as well. We also developed guiding principles for awarding military credit and encouraging the transferability of credit earned through military experience from one institution to another.
- We’ve created checks and balances in the system. State policy requires institutions to notify CPE of any changes in programs or learning outcomes that could potentially affect transferability.
- Community and technical colleges work with universities on degree pathways that outline the appropriate courses at the community college level that will transfer toward credits needed to fulfill requirements for a bachelor’s degree at a state university.
While we have solid state policies in place, we know that students don’t normally deal with state policy. What they know about transfer is their campus experiences. And we know that there are process obstacles that get in the way of seamless transfer. That is why CPE is working with public institutions to create a new statewide transfer process strategy to be unveiled at our annual Student Success Summit in February. This strategy will focus on student needs, build on institutional collaborations and aim to remove obstacles to the transfer process.
To be student-focused, we must hear from students. Through CPE’s Kentucky Student Success Collaborative, we have recruited student voice interns to gather critical feedback and perspective from a diverse group of students to help inform the statewide strategy. We also plan to work with campuses to do student journey mapping to better understand the transfer process from a student’s point of view.
Every piece of this strategy is being developed through an equity lens. For instance, we are looking for policy and process barriers that may have disproportionate impact on some student populations. We are disaggregating data to examine how policies and processes impact specific student populations. We need to meet the students where they are, help them move from one institution to another and graduate with a bachelor’s degree. While doing this, we can’t ignore the needs of underresourced students, historically underserved students, first-generation students, student parents and working students.
While the strategy is not finalized, some likely actions are bubbling to the top. One possible action is to expand our use of improvement science to identify and address transfer-related issues. Through participation in a NASH Improvement Community, we have applied continuous improvement science methodology to create rapid cycles of improvement. Working with two transfer partner institutions, this rapid improvement process has identified relatively low-cost strategies to simplify the transfer process in just a few short months. For instance, we discovered that transfer students were being assigned to faculty advisers, who weren’t readily available in the summer. By assigning students to professional advisers, these advisers were able to reach out more quickly and more transfer students were able to successfully enroll and register at the university.
Another student-focused element of the strategy is a new transfer website to be unveiled in February. This website will serve as a central repository of degree requirements for every public program in the state, along with transfer pathways linking these degree programs. Through this website, a student (or adviser) can apply prior coursework, such as dual credit from high school and courses taken at their current institution, to map out how to complete any program in the state. Simply put, it will serve as an informal degree audit of sorts that students can complete before enrolling at an institution.
In addition to these student-facing functions, the technology behind the website can help faculty construct transfer pathways from associate degree programs to baccalaureate programs by identifying curricular commonality and the most efficient paths to baccalaureate completion. That is, it can help faculty better understand how their curriculum compares with similar degree programs at other institutions and how those differences can affect transfer students. And the technology could provide the infrastructure needed to create statewide transfer pathways rather than institution-specific ones, thus simplifying the transfer process for those degree programs.
There is a lot of work around transfer in Kentucky. We are identifying barriers, addressing them head-on and providing technological solutions to help faculty and staff build transfer pathways that are logical, scaffolded, equitable and efficient. This same technology can help students understand how their current credits can be applied to any degree program in the state, enabling them to make better informed choices about which institutions and programs best meet their needs. Our statewide policies are strong, and we are committed to helping institutions make this policy implementation and the transfer process as simple as possible.