The Interstate Passport Initiative looks to make transferring credits from other colleges easier for students.

The Interstate Passport Initiative looks to make transferring credits from other colleges easier for students.

In an effort to improve the ease of transferring student credits between universities, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) has implemented a project called the Interstate Passport Initiative.

UVU is among 16 colleges participating in the initiative across Utah, Oregon, North Dakota, and Hawaii.  Other states in the WICHE region may request to be added to the initiative.

The Interstate Passport Initiative is a joint effort being developed by WICHE and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  The program seeks to shift away from the current credit hour model used in credit transfer between universities to a learning outcome model.  Under the current method for transferring credits, students are finding themselves having to retake courses they’ve completed.  This adds to the finances and time needed for graduating college.

“[The current transfer system]… it really depends on where the credits come from,” said Gae Robinson, academic advisor in the communications department. “In-state transfers better than from other states. Many of the upper-division classes end up as electives.”

The Passport Learning Outcome model introduced in the Interstate Passport would solve this issue by providing students with the ability to demonstrate academic proficiency in lower-division general education categories, including oral communication, written communication, and quantitative literacy, then transfer credit in complete block form rather than transferring credit by individual courses.

Faculty from both two-year and four-year pilot institutions for the program had been brought in to develop the academic standards of the Passport Learning Outcomes.

Providing students with the skills necessary for succeeding in their careers, life, and society were the main areas of focus in development of the academic requirements for the Passport Learning Outcomes.

The criteria determined for what satisfies the expectations of the Passport Learning Outcome models is determined at an institutional level, and students are awarded with a passport that will transfer their credit more concisely to any university that is a part of the Passport initiative.  Institutions participating in the Interstate Passport Initiative have signed an agreement that their learning outcome models are sufficient for the expectations of the program.

Statistics from the National Student Clearinghouse show that on a national level nearly a third of students transfer during their college years and nearly a quarter of transferring students move to schools in different states. The belief is that this will provide students with a more streamlined approach to moving their credit to other western universities that make up the WICHE territory and are participating in this program.  The goal is that this program will prove to be successful and that eventually the nation will adopt a similar model.  Through improving the efficiency of transferring credit, academic value will be better maintained, the time needed to finish college will decrease, graduation rates will improve, and this will lead to more efficient use of taxpayers, states, and institutions money.

There are three stages planned for the Interstate Passport Initiative, including research, the pilot project, and monitoring the impact of the program.

With the first two stages complete, focus will be on collecting data of the participating universities to see what impact has been made on graduation rates, helping students save money, and improvements on the amount of time taken to graduate.  Funding for the Interstate Passport Initiative began with a $550,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  Current goals for the group include improving assessments that shape student learning and other educational innovations.

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