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This one is a question for practitioners, so it may be a bit wonky. Consider yourself warned.

My state recently passed a law mandating that public two-year and four-year institutions have “reverse transfer” agreements, through which students who transfer “upward” prior to graduation can have some credits transferred back to the two-year school to finish the associate’s degree. 

The idea is twofold.  First, it gives the student a fallback option if life happens during the junior or senior year and she has to step away.  It’s better to leave as an associate degree grad than as a dropout. Second, it gives two-year colleges the credit they’re due.  As long as we must be measured by graduation rates, let’s at least let the graduation rates reflect students who got what they wanted and went on.

But I’ve never heard of students pursuing the reverse transfer option in any significant numbers. At a recent visit to a four-year public college to discuss reverse transfer, we got statistics on how our students have fared there. They’ve outperformed “native” students. One of us asked how many students have even tried to “reverse transfer” credits. The grand total so far is zero.

That’s one pair of schools, and the rule is new, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions.  But I have to admit, I’ve never heard of reverse transfer of credits (as opposed to the reverse transfer of students, in which a student who starts at a four-year leaves and starts over at a cc) happening on any significant scale. A student here, a student there, but that’s it, and even those are rare.

That could be a function of several factors.  Students may not know about it. Or, the implementation may be more trouble than it’s worth.  Or, they simply might not see the point.

If it’s the first, we can fix that (to some extent) with an awareness campaign. If it’s the second, we can look at best practices and try to streamline our own processes, maybe even running some sample students through it to see how it goes.  But if it’s the third, I’m not really sure what to do with that.

So this is where I turn to my wise and worldly readers.

Has anyone ever seen a reverse transfer of credits system attract a significant number of students?  If so, what made it work? Is there anything that falls under “if we knew then what we know now?”

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