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Towards a Transfer Efficiency Index

by Tod Massa 20. July 2018 18:19

This past Wednesday was the first meeting of the Transfer Data Collection & Reporting Working Group. We had a good discussion and ended with a handful of issues/questions for consultation with campus colleagues, most notably the Registrars. 

During the meeting, SCHEV Academic Affairs Director, Joe Defilippo suggested giving thought to developing some sort of “transfer efficiency index” as a key measure of reporting. This was made in the context of discussing the possibilities of collecting adequate data regarding how transfer credit is allocated across requirements for general education, the major, and electives. Ultimately, this type of measure is what I hope to develop. However, in discussing the concept after the meeting (in the post-meeting meeting), it occurred to me that this might well be the key to a simple and elegant addition to the Fall Cohort file.

Data Element: Expected Number of Credits Required to Graduate.

One thing we know about transfer is that it is messy. While it might be widely believed that all college credits are fungible, we know they are not. While most or all credits from regionally accredited institutions are transferrable, these credits don’t always have a direct match the receiving institution, nor might they meet the specific expectations of general education course at a specific institution, or within a specific major at the institution. Sometimes, a student may not know what transfer courses meet what requirements until they apply for graduation if they hadn’t transferred into a specific major and stayed there. Thus, my original idea of asking about the number of credits transferred and specifically how they were allocated at transfer, is probably asking too much.

So, how about this – a single number that represents the best estimate at entry of the minimum number of credits required for a specific student to graduate, after considering dual enrollment, other transfer credit, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and other early college credit opportunities?  

When a student graduates, particularly a transfer student, we could then calculate the total credits earned at the awarding institution and measure the difference. In the aggregate this would tell us something about the efficiency of transfer at an institution, as the law requires us to report. Of course, it would not be perfect because students can take more courses than needed out of interest, out of maintaining full-time enrollment for financial aid for a final semester, or just out of a lack of interest in being efficient and optimizing their path to completion. Unfortunately, these issues will plague us regardless I expect.

What do you think?

Remember, we must respond to the law below.

E.  The Council shall prepare a comprehensive annual report on effectiveness of transferring from comprehensive community colleges to baccalaureate public institutions of higher education, including a review of the effectiveness of the use of pathway maps in achieving efficiencies and cost savings in the completion of a degree program. The report shall include the following elements: completion rates, average time to degree, credit accumulation, post-transfer student academic performance, and comparative efficiency. The Council shall adopt guidelines for data submission from public institutions of higher education necessary for such report, and all institutions shall report such data in accordance with the guidelines. The report shall be made publicly available on the Council website and on the online portal maintained pursuant to § 23.1-908. 

I do think adding an Expected Number of Credits Required to Graduate to the Fall Cohort file might well be the simplest and cleanest way to address the transfer reporting questions and similar questions about dual enrollment.





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