Will COVID make transferring easier and more equitable?

Loss of credits and other transfer barriers can disproportionately impact low-income students and students of color
By: | July 24, 2020
The Interstate Passport model used in 17 states allows students to transfer credits based on learning outcomes rather than specific course descriptions. (GettyImages/Hill Street Studios)The Interstate Passport model used in 17 states allows students to transfer credits based on learning outcomes rather than specific course descriptions. (GettyImages/Hill Street Studios)

COVID’s campus disruptions have spurred calls to make the transfer process easier for students who want to switch to colleges and universities that are closer to home or more affordable.

Another concern is that the loss of credits and other barriers to transferring disproportionately impact low-income students and students of color, Los Angeles Community College District Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez said in a news release.

Dozens of higher ed leaders and educational associations are now pushing for higher education to adopt the Interstate Passport model, a learning-outcomes based system developed by Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

“COVID-19 exacerbates the inequities and shines a bright light on health and economic disparities for the most vulnerable student populations, who were already under-resourced before the pandemic,” Rodriguez said.  “The time to fix transfer is now.”


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Transfer students lose an average full semester of credits, equating to thousands of dollars in tuition and months of lost time, says a task force supporting the changes.

The Interstate Passport Network, which comprises 60 institutions in 17 states, facilities block transfers of lower-level general education requirements based on student performance rather than on specific course descriptions.

Students who earn a “Passport” can transfer to another in-network college and continue working toward degree completion.

“Interstate Passport flips the traditional transfer paradigm, making the sending institution responsible for ensuring what a student knows and can do rather than the receiving institution making that determination,” said Sam Gingerich, former provost and executive vice chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Rodriguez and Gingerich are hoping more college and university leaders will join the network.

“The pandemic has forced us to look at our systems and processes in higher education,” Gingerich said. “In many cases, we’re starting from scratch to change the way we do business.”


UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.