Senators Introduce Bicameral, Bipartisan Bill to Help Students 'Reverse' Transfer Credits from Four-Year Universities to Community Colleges
Jul 19 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Mike Braun (R-IN) along with Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to remove an unnecessary bureaucratic obstacle preventing many students from receiving the degree or certification they have rightfully earned. The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2021 would facilitate the “reverse transferring” of college credits – the process of transferring credits from a four-year institution to a two-year institution in which a student was previously enrolled to identify whether they earned enough credits along the way to receive a degree.
“This much-needed bill would help to eliminate an unnecessary hurdle for students who’ve worked hard and paid for their studies,” said Sen. Warner. “In a competitive job market, this bipartisan bill will help more Americans claim the degree or credentials that they have rightfully earned.”
“A four year college is not the only path to prosperity in this country, and community colleges are a vital and economical part of our education system. Removing needless roadblocks on the path to attaining a degree from these institutions is overdue. I’m happy to join this measure to allow students to get associates degrees and certifications they’ve earned,” said Sen. Braun.
“Our education system has to support different paths to a successful career,” said Sen. Hickenlooper. “Many students who graduate high school never get a four year degree. Making it easier to recognize the work students have already done is a no-brainer.”
Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Joe Neguse (D-CO), Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX).
“We must ensure every student is provided a pathway to education that fits their goals and career path,” said Rep. Neguse. “This legislation ensures that students can receive credit and earn an associate’s degree or short-term certificate regardless of where they completed their coursework, breaking down barriers for better paying jobs for students who are unable to finish at a four-year institution. Reverse transfer will be a meaningful step for millions of students to increase college affordability and access.”
“I am pleased to join Representative Neguse in introducing the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act. Utah is home to great schools with many students who begin their education at a community college and finish at a university,” said Rep. Curtis. “This bill will improve data sharing between higher education institutions by allowing a student to continue earning credits towards an Associate’s degree at community college, even after transferring to a university, boosting student earning potential and student retention.”
“There is no single or correct path to higher education,” said Rep. Castro. “As students face increasing tuition costs and student loan debt, it is clear that many students are starting their post-secondary academic goals at community colleges. In my district, Alamo Colleges is the largest provider of higher education in South Texas and proves that two-year programs are critical in preparing students for success beyond their hallways. The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act will allow these students to easily transition to four-year universities, like the University of Texas at San Antonio in my district, with an associate’s degree as well as the skillset to finish their studies and successfully enter the workforce.”
The National Student Clearinghouse, an educational nonprofit that verifies enrollment data, has identified over four million individuals that have completed enough credit hours at a four-year institution to be eligible for an associate’s degree, but instead withdrew without a degree or certificate. Facilitating the practice of reverse transfer would ease students’ access to credentials they have already earned and better provide for the demands of the future economy.
The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2021 would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to create a new exemption for the sharing of student education records between higher education institutions. The bill would also allow for the sharing of credit data between post-secondary institutions for the sole purpose of determining whether a student earned an associate’s degree or certificate during the course of their studies. Currently, FERPA requires students to give their institutions proactive permission to determine whether they have earned enough credits to be awarded a degree or certificate.
The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2021 has the support of numerous organizations, including the Virginia Community College System, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, American Association of Community Colleges, and Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, among others. For a complete list, click here.
“AACRAO believes this legislation is an important step that will enable institutions to increase educational attainment, and ultimately salaries, for millions of in individuals,” said Melanie Gottlieb, Interim Executive Director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (AACRAO). “The additional FERPA exception proposed represents a responsible means of sharing student information between a student's 4-year and 2-year institutions in a way that both protects student privacy and supports the completion agenda.”
“Virginia’s community colleges prepare students for in-demand jobs that respond to the marketplace and employers,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. “The Reverse Transfer Act is a welcome approach that will benefit students from every race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic group. Communication will be facilitated, obstacles removed, and processes improved between community colleges and four-year institutions. I applaud Senator Warner and Senator Braun for their bipartisan approach in working across the aisle to advance this legislation that will increase affordability, accelerate degree completion, and lead students to upward mobility.”
“Too many struggling students leave universities burdened with debt and without degrees: disproportionately, they are low-income and students of color. Yet, many have enough credits to earn a career pathway certificate or an associate’s degree at NOVA. Unfortunately, there is no ‘reverse transfer’ system that makes it possible to turn these hard-earned credits into valuable college credentials. Senator Warner’s ‘reverse transfer’ proposal would be transformational. Students could earn degrees and certificates, opening the door to high-demand, sustaining wage careers that would secure their financial futures and grow the high-skilled workforce. It’s a true win-win,” said Anne M. Kress, PhD, President of Northern Virginia Community College.
“Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia enthusiastically endorses the proposed ‘Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act.’ This act will allow students to easily earn degrees and other credentials at community colleges by transferring credits earned at four-year institutions. Earning additional credentials will make the individuals more competitive in the modern workforce,” said Dr. John A. Downey, President of Blue Ridge Community College. “Many students currently transfer to four-year institutions without completing their associate degrees or certificates. Offering a reverse transfer option will encourage those students to become graduates of their community college. Completion will show employers that these students are lifelong learners who continue to improve their education. BRCC encourages all parties to support this important piece of legislation to improve our workforce.”
“Virginia Western Community College is delighted to support the bipartisan Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act to help students achieve their goals of a college degree through reverse transfer. This bill removes the roadblocks that deter students from pursuing reverse transfer and will help colleges make the process of credential attainment more accessible. Additionally, this bill will benefit students, employers, and our communities by helping students realize the credentials needed for employment,” said Dr. Robert Sandel, President of Virginia Western Community College.
“Across the country, there are 36 million adults with some college credit, but no awarded degree. This number includes uncredentialed completers – or students who have earned all of the credits needed toward a degree that has yet to be recognized or awarded. Unfortunately, our current system presents barriers to identifying, reengaging, and awarding earned degrees to these students. The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act will help scale reverse credit transfer, a practice to award earned degrees, by removing a key barrier that limits institutions’ ability to work together to identify eligible students and help them claim their credentials. By promoting greater credit recognition, this necessary policy change will help today’s students enjoy the social and economic mobility that postsecondary degree or credential can provide,” said Mamie Voight, Interim President and CEO, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).
“Almost one million Virginians have Some College, No Degree. Considering that occupations requiring a postsecondary credential are projected to grow faster than occupations that do not require postsecondary education for entry, it is imperative that we combine Virginians completed college coursework to produce credentials that lead to life-sustaining employment. The FERPA exception proposed in the reverse transfer legislation will allow Virginia’s Community College to do just that,” said Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon, President, Thomas Nelson Community College with campuses in Hampton and Williamsburg, VA.
A copy of the bill text is available here.