The challenges with transfer are well-documented and well-publicized across higher education. From lost credits to manual institutional processes to confusing admissions requirements, it’s not easy for students to move from one institution to another. And even if they are able to transfer institutions, it’s likely that they’ll lose some of their hard-earned credits – up to 13 units or 43% of their credits, according to the National Center for Education Studies (NCES).

But despite these challenges, 1.3 million students were classified as transfer students in Fall 2021, according to the latest data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. And if the past predicts the future, we can only expect these numbers to grow. 

While it’s true that the current transfer process can be complex and confusing, there are also opportunities to improve it and simplify it – both for students and the institutions that serve them. The question is, where should we start?

Two Ways to Tackle Transfer

While there are many places where we could begin, we believe there are two areas that, if improved, would immediately make transfer practices better: transparency and technology. In fact, we believe they go hand-in-hand.

Improving Transfer Transparency

First let’s look at transparency. With transfer students losing over 40% of their credits, it’s clear that the process isn’t, well, clear. Too often, students don’t understand or misunderstand how the work they’ve done and the credits they’ve earned transfer from one institution to another. Institutional policies and practices are murky, leaving students uncertain how their prior work will be applied to the institution they want to attend. 

Instead, institutions should consider ways to make their transfer practices more transparent. Students need the ability to quickly determine if their existing credits transfer – or if they don’t. And if they do transfer, they need to be clear on which requirements they fulfill on their overall pathway to graduation. 

By making the transfer process more transparent, students will gain a clearer picture of what their new pathway looks like before they ever step foot on the campus they wish to attend. That way, they can ensure that they are spending their valuable time and money on the courses they need – not on courses they need to repeat.

Supporting Transfer Through Technology

Which brings us to our second point: technology. Having the right technology is key to increasing transparency. The right technology will not only smooth and simplify the transfer process, but it will also give students a way to access their pathway and see what steps they need to take next. As well, better technology will make the administrative side of transfer better, too, through automation.

When looking for technology to support and improve their transfer process, institutions should first look for solutions that provide an up-to-date and comprehensive transfer articulation database. Students need the ability to easily search this database so that they can see whether – and how – their existing coursework will transfer to the institution they wish to attend.  By searching for specific general education requirements and courses in their target major, students can gain a clear picture of what will – and will not – transfer. And this helps them to avoid credit loss or duplicative courses.

Second, institutions should embrace tools that allow students to map their educational pathway all the way to completion. By mapping agreed-upon pathways and giving students transparency through an individual dashboard for scheduling courses and tracking their progress towards a credential or degree, students can stay on track to transfer successfully.

Smoothing the Transfer Process With Quottly

The University System of Maryland (USM) is tackling their transfer challenges head-on, and their partnership with Quottly plays a critical role by giving students the ability to easily transfer credits and keep up with the status of those transfers at 36 Maryland institutions. Through ARTSYS powered by Quottly, USM will realize benefits ranging from thoughtful customer service and system support and customization options to better visibility into student pathways and an optimized system and process.

Quottly provides Course Sharing and Transfer Articulation solutions that simplify the transfer process and help students find the courses they need to successfully complete their degree or program. Our robust transfer equivalency database guides students with program and course transferability information. And our Transfer Articulation Management solution automates and streamlines course change evaluation and articulation approval, making the process easier and more efficient for students and institutions alike. 

Our pathway-aware solutions help students find programs, campuses, and courses that best fit their interests. Students can view course schedules as well as a dashboard to help then map and monitor their progress toward graduation.

Improving transfer is a tall task, and one that many institutions, organizations, and vendors are dedicated to supporting. But when you find ways to adopt the right technology and improve transparency, you’re taking two big steps in the right direction.

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…