Within the next few years, students who transfer to Binghamton University from a SUNY community college before receiving an associate’s degree will have the opportunity to earn the degree retroactively, thanks to a system-wide initiative to graduate more students from college.
The initiative will help BU students, and students from other SUNY four-year institutions, transfer their credits back to the community college to receive their associate’s degree while they work towards their bachelor’s degree. The community colleges will determine if students have met the graduation requirements and will work with students who have not.
The initiative is possible due in large part to a $500,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation, a private, independent foundation that is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college.
“This project will give our students greater transfer opportunities within SUNY and dramatically enhance degree planning services across our 64 campuses, increasing completion rates and ensuring that students are equipped with the knowledge, tools, and advisement they need to graduate on time,” SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said in a press release.
Holly Zanville, program director at Lumina Foundation, is in charge of “Credit When It’s Due: Recognizing the Value of Quality Associate Degrees,” a multi-state initiative funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helios Education Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and USA Funds. She said associate degrees are important in degree completion.
“The capacity of most projects, like that of New York’s, to include community colleges and public universities statewide — makes this a unique and major push to fully engage transfer associate degrees as a key strategy within a state’s degree completion goal,” Zanville said in a press release.
According to David Doyle, SUNY director of communications, many students who transfer from community colleges to four-year SUNY institutions before earning an associate’s degree may earn it while working on their bachelor’s degree.
“However, there is currently no way for either the student or the sending campus to know whether these requirements have been met,” Doyle wrote in an email. “The Lumina grant will support building the technical infrastructure to determine when students have satisfied their associate degree requirements.”
Doyle said the current Degreeworks software does not perform audits between campuses.
“SUNY is currently working with Ellucian to develop transfer functionality,” Doyle wrote. “It is anticipated that this functionality will be implemented within the next two years.”
SUNY plans to hire a reverse transfer coordinator to work with community colleges and provide training and technical support.
Almost 10,000 students transfer from SUNY community colleges to four-year institutions within the system each year, according to the SUNY website. Of them, approximately 59 percent transfer before receiving associate degrees.
The project aims to award associate degrees to 5 percent of students who transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions, and offer another 35 percent of students an opportunity to complete their degree.
“The 5% figure references a previous reverse transfer pilot project (Project Win-Win),” Doyle wrote. “It is difficult to determine exactly what percentage of transfer students would be awarded degrees at this juncture, but the goal is to award as many degrees as possible to the students who have met their program requirements.”