Helios Education Foundation Helps Expand Associate Degree Completion

Posted on: December 10, 2013

Research recently released suggests more than 27,000 community college students in the U.S. were eligible for an associate's degree before they transferred to a four-year institution but were unaware. Perhaps even more concerning is about half of those 27,000 students held no postsecondary credential four years after they transferred. The research, conducted by the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was a baseline study to identify the potential impact of the Credit When It's Due Initiative. Additional reports about the implementation of the initiative will be conducted. Click here to view the full baseline report.

In 2012, Helios Education Foundation was among five foundations who partnered to create the "Credit When It's Due" initiative to support higher education systems and institutions in developing policies and practices that facilitate associate degree attainment for community college students who transferred to a four-year college or university without first obtaining an associate degree. Helios specifically provided funding to support the initiative pilot at 10 community colleges and four universities in Florida.

Called a "reverse transfer," the ability to transfer credits earned at a university to the community college previously attended to meet unfulfilled associate degree requirements is a great benefit to students. It promotes educational achievement and academic success by recognizing the effort students put into their postsecondary education. This, in turn, raises the completion rate for colleges - and higher performance could mean increased funding for institutions that are often facing budget constraints.

"This initiative is a win-win for students," said Braulio Colón, Vice President & Program Director, Postsecondary Education Initiatives at Helios Education Foundation. "They have earned this degree and by providing opportunities for ‘reverse-transfer,' they have an additional postsecondary credential that opens up continued educational and job opportunities for them. Obtaining a postsecondary education is critical for today's students who are competing in a global economy that demands high level, 21st century skills. As a foundation focused on creating opportunities for postsecondary success, we are excited about the implications of this work for students."

It also helps lead to greater economic benefits for the community. Research shows that degree holders:

  • Pay more taxes
  • Buy more goods and services
  • Require less government support through social service programs*

Nationally representative data shows that 78 percent of students who transfer from a community college to a university do so without an associate degree. Data also show of those who transfer, 65 percent transfer to a university with 45 or more college credits; yet despite the large number of credits earned, 43 percent still lack a college degree four years later.

The Credit When It's Due Initiative intends to help identify strategies and create "reverse transfer agreements" between community colleges and four-year institutions so that these students can receive the associate degree they have earned. Helios' support of this initiative provided funding to create these agreements between: Florida Atlantic University, Indian River State College, Palm Beach State College, Florida International University, Broward College, Miami-Dade College, University of North Florida, Florida State College at Jacksonville, University of South Florida, Hillsborough Community College, Pasco Hernando Community College, St. Petersburg College, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. Early results show that, within these institutions, there are nearly 2,100 students eligible for a reverse transfer.

*Is More Better: The Impact of Postsecondary Education on the Economic and Social Well-Being of American Society

Category: Postsecondary Completion

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