GVSU, community college reverse transfer agreements a ‘win-win’

Ellie Phillips

Grand Valley State University has signed reverse transfer agreements with 22 community colleges in the state, and 15 of those agreements have been signed since March of this year.

Reverse transfer agreements are the opposite of a regular transfer agreement when students take
credits earned at a two-year community college and use them toward their four-year degree at a
university. The reverse transfer process involves transferring credits earned at the four-year
institution back to the community college, where the credits are applied to the unfulfilled
requirements for an associate’s degree.

“As of the last report, 1,041 GVSU students have been contacted,” said Lynn McNamara Blue, vice
provost and dean of Academic Services and Information Technology. “They have met the minimum
requirements noted by their previous school. That is just the first step. They need to apply, be audited
for the right courses, and then their previous school might award the degree.”

The reverse transfer agreement not only allows students to have something to show for their time and
effort in higher education during the time they are completing their bachelor’s or higher degree, but it
also enables the community colleges to track the students. This in turn raises the completion rate for
the colleges, which is one of the ways the institutions’ performance is measured—and higher
performance means increased government funding.

For GVSU, the benefit of the reverse transfer agreements is found in the university’s commitment to
students: what is good for them is good for the university.

“These agreements align very well with our mission since they promote education and achievement for
our students,” said Sherril Soman, interim registrar at the GVSU Registrar’s Office. “It is important that
students acquire the appropriate credentials for the work they have done. In the same way that we
award a degree when a student has completed the related requirements, it is important that students
receive acknowledgment of the academic distinctions they’ve earned.”

The increased number of reverse transfer agreements is due to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, the Helios Education Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and USA

These groups joined together to create the “Credit When It’s Due: Recognizing the Value of the Quality
Associate Degree” initiative. According to the grant, 79 percent of Michigan’s community college
transfers leave to public universities without first earning an associate’s degree.

The grant and initiative will be administered by the Michigan Center for Student Success, which itself
operates under the Michigan Community College Association (MCCA). The MCCA serves as a hub for
connecting leadership, administrators, faculty and staff to increase student success in the state by
emphasizing the links between practice, research and policy.

Michigan’s portion of the $6.4 million grant, which totals $500,000, is being managed by the MCCA,
which will partner with the Presidents Council State Universities of Michigan to coordinate local and
state-level activities, best practices for reverse-transfers, marketing and communication materials for
student outreach and to develop state-level data reporting on reverse-transfers.

“Over the course of the two-year award period, agreements have to be signed by all 28 community
colleges and 15 senior institutions (in Michigan) with the outcome to be to have awarded 2,400
additional associate’s of arts and associate’s of science degrees,” Blue said.

By the end of the two-year period, the ultimate goal of the grant is to support networks of reverse
transfer agreements in 13 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon.

For more information on reverse transfer agreements at GVSU, visit www.gvsu.edu/registrar/reverse-

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