New Trends in the World of Higher Education | Edcor

New Trends in the World of Higher Education

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Reverse Transfer Agreements Taking Hold

Many community colleges across the nation have transfer agreements with four year institutions, meaning that students can apply their community college credits earned towards a bachelor’s degree. However, in recent years four year institutions have been forming “reverse transfer agreements” with community colleges. Reverse transfer agreements work opposite of transfer agreements, meaning students take courses at a four year institution and transfer the credits earned towards an associate’s degree at a community college.

In Edcor’s headquarter state of Michigan; legislature was passed in 2011 requiring four year public higher education institutions to put into place transfer agreements with community colleges. Many states have adopted a similar stance on reverse transfer agreements, as this option is becoming more and more popular.

Reverse transfer agreements provide a variety of advantages. While many students attend community colleges and transfer credits to a four year institution, not many physically earn enough credits at the community college to be awarded an associate’s degree. While it is certainly beneficial that students can apply the credits earned, if they do not finish their degree plan at the four year institution, they are often left with nothing to show their academic commitments. Reverse transfer agreements allow students to receive recognition for past work done at both the traditional four year institutions and the community college.

Additionally, community colleges who lose students to four year institutions cannot normally track the success rate of their students accurately, meaning that they are continually reporting dismal completion percentages. While this initially may not seem of particular importance, there are instances where low completion percentages prevent community colleges from receiving funding that would otherwise be available.

It is recommended that students who have attended a community college in the past and are now at a four year institution check with their admissions office to see if reverse transfer options are available. While not every student will be interested in reverse transfer agreements, there certainly will be some.

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Community Colleges Now Offering Baccalaureate Degree Options in 22 States

Another interesting development in the world of education is a push by community colleges to move from a traditional two year program format, to a four year format for select degree majors. Examples of some of the current two year majors that are showing promise to move to four year majors include culinary arts, food and agriculture science, power generation technology, and maritime technology. Most programs would provide baccalaureate degrees with the completion of fewer credit hours than their four year counterparts, saving students time and money.

It is important to note that while these programs are granting bachelor’s degrees, they are not identical to the bachelor’s degrees that one may obtain from a four year institution. These degrees are often referred to as “workforce degrees”, as they most commonly focus on programs that bolster the local workforce population of where the community college is located. In fact, many of the states that permit community colleges to offer four year degrees have specific regulations in place to prevent community colleges from offering bachelor’s degrees for majors that are not directly tied to workforce needs. By complying with regulations requiring the majors offered to support workforce needs, the community colleges are hoping to thwart the concerns from four year institutions that community colleges are “mission creeping” into an area that they do not have expertise in, and offering watered down degrees.

It is a lengthy process for community colleges to begin offering bachelor degrees. Most need to have additional accreditation, rewrites of curriculum, hiring of staff with higher credential levels, and site visits from accrediting bodies.

Currently, there are 22 states that have legislature surrounding community colleges offering four year degree programs. As time goes on, we anticipate that this will become more and more standard. As workforce needs and the cost of higher education continue to climb, the popularity of students having cost and time efficient choices will become more and more important.

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