Taking Credit for Credits Earned

Coursework at Four-Year Colleges Used to Complete Unfinished Associate Degrees
Taking Credit for Credits Earned
In the past three years, more than 1,800 students have earned community college degrees from The City University of New York with course credits from four-year colleges that counted toward their associate degree requirements.

The process, known as “reverse transfer,” allows community colleges to accept credits that former students who left without degrees earned later at four-year colleges. In addition, in what CUNY calls an “en route” degree, students at its three comprehensive colleges that offer both two- and four-year degrees may receive an associate degree if they earn the requisite credits while in a baccalaureate program.

“Students benefit practically and educationally by qualifying for a reverse transfer degree,” said Chancellor James B. Milliken. “It gives them an academic credential that’s immediately useful in the workforce and provides a lifelong boost in earning potential. Meanwhile, academic recognition of what they have already achieved often propels students to stay on track toward completing a four-year degree.” An associate degree increases lifetime income by $180,000 more than having just some college, according to research by The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Reverse transfer also benefits community colleges by increasing their graduation rates, thereby recognizing their often-critical role in preparing students to move on to baccalaureate studies. A National Student Clearinghouse report on baccalaureate attainment found that 64 percent of entering community college students transfer to four-year colleges without earning an associate degree.

CUNY considered how to publicize the initiative so that it would not encourage early transfer from community colleges. The program targets only students who have already transferred.

CUNY’s central Office of Academic Affairs ramped up the program quickly without extra funding following a small pilot three years ago. The key was collaboration by officials on every campus who deal with advisement, registration, transfer evaluation and more. In essence, the colleges manually evaluate transcripts, assign credit where justified, and notify students if they qualify for an associate degree – without any cost to the student. Once students are notified, they must opt in and apply for the degree.

CUNY’s 2014-2015 pilot at Bronx, Hostos and Queensborough Community Colleges (which into the next year at Queensborough) granted 140 degrees. In 2015-2016 the seven CUNY community colleges awarded 236 degrees and the three comprehensive colleges – Medgar Evers College, New York City College of Technology and the College of Staten Island – awarded 370 en route associate degrees, for a total of 606. In 2016-2017, CUNY’s community colleges awarded 320 reverse transfer associate degrees and the comprehensive colleges awarded 751 en route associate degrees. The two-year total is 1,677 and the total including the pilot year is 1,817.