In today’s higher education environment, it’s common for students to transfer from one institution to another during the course of their academic journey. Some move laterally, changing from one 2-year or 4-year institution to another, while others transfer vertically, moving from a 2-year to a 4-year institution. Still others reverse transfer from a 4-year back to a community college, enabling them to secure an associate’s degree.

But if there is one thing in common with all transfer students, it’s this: the transfer process is complicated and fraught with frustration. In fact, in our recent survey, Barriers to Student Completion, the students we surveyed agreed that transfer processes need to be smoother and easier. 

One of the biggest challenges students encounter when they transfer is credit loss. Data from 2004 to 2009 shows that, on average, transfer students lost 43% of their credits – nearly a full semester’s worth of time and money. Students who transferred from one public institution to another public institution fared a bit better – they only lost 37% of their credits. But students who transferred from private for-profit schools to public ones lost over 90% of their credits. Ouch.

Overcoming Credit Loss: Pathway-Aware Transfer Equivalency Solutions

One way to help support transfer students, and improve the overall process, is by providing better ways for students to understand which credits will transfer – and which credits will not. Too often, students enter the transfer process without this knowledge and are surprised to find out that they need to take, or retake, classes in order to fulfill graduation requirements at their new institution. Sometimes this situation occurs because their credits do not transfer at all. But more often, it’s because their credits transfer, but do not apply to the degree that they are pursuing. In either case, this results in extra work and extra cost, not to mention delays in their ability to graduate on time.

One way to help students avoid this situation is by selecting transfer equivalency solutions that are “pathway aware.” Transfer equivalency solutions that are pathway aware help students understand credit transfer and credit applicability, as well as what their academic journey will look like if they transfer from one institution to another. Will all of their credits transfer? If they do, will they all apply towards the degree they are pursuing at the new institution? Or are there certain credits that will transfer, but not fulfill a degree requirement, causing the student to retake the class in order to meet the new institution’s requirements?

All of these questions are important, but few transfer students can confidently answer them today. And without this information, many students are opting to transfer without understanding the full impact of how their existing credits will apply to the degree they wish to pursue.

How Do Pathway-Aware Transfer Equivalency Solutions Work?

When a transfer equivalency solution is pathway aware, students can easily see if, and how, their current credits will transfer to other institutions. Let’s use students transferring from a 2-year community college to a 4-year institution as an example. Using a pathway-aware transfer equivalency solution, students can not only determine if the courses they take at their 2-year institution will transfer to the 4-year institution that they wish to attend. They can also ensure that the credits they earn will apply to the degree they ultimately wish to pursue. Here’s how it works.

At the heart of these solutions is a database of transfer articulations that enable institutions to pull program data from their student information system via SIS integration. The institution can build suggested pathways that show students what courses they need to take at their 2-year institution with an eye towards ensuring the credits will not just transfer to the 4-year, but also apply towards the student’s intended degree.

By putting this picture into the context of the student journey, students gain an accurate picture of where they are on the road to completion, which courses they can take at their existing institution, and what courses they need to take at their new institution in order to stay on track and graduate on time. It puts their transfer credits into context, giving them a clear picture not just of what transfers, but how it transfers and where it applies in their overall degree pathway. That way, students can clearly see which credits apply to their degree – and which do not.

As the number of students who transfer institutions continues to grow, it’s important that colleges and universities invest in fixing the transfer process to help every student succeed. Selecting a pathway-aware transfer equivalency solution is a great place to start. If you’re interested in learning more about Quottly’s pathway-aware transfer equivalency solution, please request a demo.

About the Author


Quottly helps higher education systems, consortia, and institutions expand academic opportunity, create new pathways to completion, solve transfer challenges, and drive efficiency. Explore Quottly solutions…