Report: Four Common Decision Points in Successful State Reverse Transfer Policies

Quick Takeaways:

  • Successful state reverse transfer policies can vary in design, but often include policy oversight, technology, funding, and student identification.
  • An examination of five states shows that while a “one-size-fits-all” approach does not exist, there is common ground that other states can learn from when implementing their own policies.
  • Adequate technology and funding are key components for successful implementation of reverse transfer policies and states should determine the priority of such policies when creating an implementation plan.

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff

While the approach to implementing a reverse-transfer policy can vary from state to state, there are several common approaches they can use to create successful policies, according to a recent brief from the Education Commission of the States (ECS).

The brief, the second in a three-part series on reverse-transfer policies, defines reverse transfer as “the process of retroactively granting associate degrees to students who have not completed the requirements of an associate degree before they have transferred from a two- to a four-year institution.”

According to ECS, there are currently 10 states (Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas) with policies requiring public institutions to retroactively award associate degrees to eligible students, while many other states offer reverse transfer through institutional agreements or board policy.

And while the process for implementing reverse-transfer policies can be complex and unique to each state, ECS identified four “common decision points” states can use to create successful policies:

  1. Determination of a group or regulatory body responsible for policy oversight;
  2. Technology, including how to track student data through the use of digital transcripts and student database systems;
  3. Funding, either through grants like the Credit When It’s Due (CWID) initiative or state and institutional appropriations; and 
  4. Identification of students eligible to participate in reverse-transfer programs.

ECS noted in the brief that technology is a “key component” to implementing a reverse-transfer policy, as not all institutions within a state are using the same technology (if they use it at all), creating a roadblock to successful student transfers. Funding for such technology and staffing to process the transfers also plays a key role in the success of such policies, and states “will need to decide if reverse transfer is a priority” and if it can be funded appropriately, ECS noted.

The brief examined how five states (Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, and Texas) approached their reverse-transfer policies and how they used the four decisions points to successfully implement them. Like all states, these five implemented their policies in different ways, demonstrating that a “one-size-fits-all” approach does not exist.

However, ECS highlighted some similarities in their approaches. For example, each state began the process with legislation requiring that a reverse-transfer policy be implemented, with the details of how to complete the implementation process kept vague and up for interpretation. The state examples illustrate how states “can learn from one another on what processes worked best and what successes/downfalls came along with their process,” according to ECS.


Publication Date: 8/24/2015

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