The transfer process desperately needs innovation

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This post is the second in a series of blog posts on the credit transfer articulation and goes deeper into the features and applications of Transfer Explorer.

Nationally, 80% of community college students express a desire to earn a bachelor’s degree, but only 14% end up achieving that goal within six years. Many factors contribute to this leaky transfer pipeline and low transfer success rate. Among these are those that hamper the transfer process itself: administrative and bureaucratic hurdles, lack of complete and correct information on college websites, and insufficient (or non-existent) advisory support. Even when credits are transferred, they are not always accepted against a student’s program or degree requirements, threatening their chances of earning a degree and increasing the time to graduation. Students are unable to accurately prepare for their transfer journey, often resulting in more time, money, and effort spent trying to get accepted credits at a new institution. The Government Accountability Office reports that around 43% of credits are wasted nationwide when transferring, disproportionately hurting minority, low-income and first-generation students.

There is an urgent need to invest in innovative practices and leverage AI-powered tools to address the many challenges faced by transfer students. The Articulation of Credit Transfer (ACT) project, a collaboration between Ithaka S+R and seven of the City University of New York’s 20 baccalaureate and community colleges, and funded by the Heckscher and Petrie foundations, aims to improve information, advice and the administrative processes involved in the transfer process. (ACT is a member of the A2B Transfer Projects – Bachelor’s Associate.)

According to CUNY’s Office of Applied Research, Assessment, and Data Analysis, CUNY admits approximately 24,000 transfer students each year, of which approximately one-third are CUNY vertical transfer students (CUNY transfer students associated with licensing programs), and another – the third is transfers from outside CUNY. These numbers demonstrate the importance to CUNY of having accurate, transparent and reliable transfer information. Prior to the ACT project, it was difficult for students and counselors to understand how credits were transferred through CUNY. This lack of information could hamper the ability of vertical transfer students to achieve their higher education goals. Since CUNY community colleges tend to overwhelmingly serve students from minority and underrepresented communities, the inability to retrieve accurate information about transfer processes and policies has posed undue hardship for students who are already more likely to experience setbacks in graduating and have limited difficulty. financial ressources. These factors can make it less likely that students in these groups will end up transferring.

Introducing Transfer Explorer

The ACT project includes several lines of work, but one of its most innovative and impactful projects to date is Transfer Explorer, or T-Rex as it is commonly known, which was designed for the whole from CUNY (not just the seven ACT colleges). T-Rex aims to solve a myriad of transfer problems, which can be categorized into three areas:

  1. Provide clear transfer information: T-Rex displays organized, searchable, and user-friendly information about how each course in the CUNY catalog transfers and applies to all CUNY undergraduate institutions.
  2. Promote transparency: Prior to T-Rex, there was very little information about course transfer policies and course equivalencies. Students are now empowered to make the right decisions based on daily updated information – a single source of transfer truth. Research on online access to transfer pathway information on CUNY and other college websites shows how complex policies and deficient information can hamper students’ future plans and add to their confusion. and their frustration as they navigate the transfer process. Advisors also struggle to navigate websites to retrieve transfer-related information, saying the opacity of websites makes the task of finding information complex and time-consuming. Now everyone can see when one of CUNY’s 1.4 million course credit transfer rules appears to have been programmed incorrectly or illogically or to the detriment of students. T-Rex has shown how useful it can be to have accurate and public information about transfer policies and processes.
  3. Facilitate ongoing communication and review: The ACT team has also developed a workflow (requiring a login) for T-Rex that allows teachers to suggest and validate equivalencies. This workflow includes multiple levels of configurable approvals (if needed), allows uploading of documents (such as lesson plans), and has a chat function where professors can communicate about a particular credit transfer case .

While technology isn’t the only solution to solving the leaky transfer pipeline, it can alleviate some of the structural barriers to student success. T-Rex’s new approach of leveraging CUNY’s centralized software systems to show everyone how classes are transferring or will transfer, even allowing high school students to chart their transfer path, has the potential to change the landscape of how and where students go to retrieve information about transfer processes and policies.

The numbers speak to the widespread need for this information – since tracking began in May 2020, over 47,000 unique users have accessed the T-Rex site. Anyone can view, review, share and explore the 1.4 million course equivalencies through CUNY, and tens of thousands of people have taken advantage of this opportunity.

What can the T-Rex do for you?

The transfer process involves multiple stakeholders. T-Rex opens the door to planning, exploring and improving individuals at every touchpoint of the transfer journey.

  • Students can use View T-Rex Course Equivalencies and How This Course Transfer Works to schedule class taking. An upcoming feature will allow anyone to see the actual program requirements across the University as outlined in CUNY’s (Degree Works) Degree Audit System, to determine which transfer courses meet the requirements. from the program.
  • Professors can review how a course they teach will be treated in CUNY and start conversations with other faculty members to better align courses if needed. The ACT team is working on using a system login process using a password-protected account to facilitate this work more seamlessly.
  • Advisors are now empowered to give clear and precise information on how a course will be transferred to home and host institutions. T-Rex’s bookmarking feature makes it easy to share and send course equivalency information.
  • Admins can see the frequency of classes that Actually transferred to and from every college, across all departments with T-Rex’s new feature, Frequently Transferred Courses. This information can be extremely valuable for managing enrollment and course scheduling, as well as prioritizing course equivalency exams.
  • Using T-Rex, colleges and programs can now show prospective transfer students, early in their post-secondary career, what they need to do to transfer successfully. For example, using the underlying technology of T-Rex, the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College at CUNY worked with ACT developers to create the Zicklin Transfer Explorer. This online tool tells students who want to transfer to Baruch and Zicklin which courses those students need to take at their home institutions for admission. Given Zicklin’s success, other CUNY colleges are increasingly interested in replicating the model for their own selective programs.
  • Using T-Rex, high school students, K-12 counselors, and CBO partners can now plan students’ higher education pathways before they graduate from high school. Soon, T-Rex will even show how specific dual-enrollment high school courses meet college program diploma requirements.

T-Rex has immense power and potential to expand beyond just an intra-CUNY transfer. Each year, several thousand students transfer to and from SUNY and CUNY or to and from private colleges in New York and CUNY. Thus, simply increasing the intelligence of the T-Rex by incorporating course equivalencies from these institutions would have an impact. Expanding the tool’s reach beyond New York State could make T-Rex a national one-stop-shop for transfer, including for more than 25% of students transferring from state to state. the other, thus removing the need for these students to browse multiple state websites. to find accurate information.

We are encouraged by the impact of the T-Rex so far in easing these transfer charges and the many impacts it can have on a campus. Closing gaps in transfer credit policies and accuracy, ease of access, and transparency are key to ensuring that transfer student populations are not left behind. Career pathways should not be closed solely because of solvable administrative challenges. Knowing that these issues have a disproportionate impact on underserved groups only adds to the urgency of addressing these challenges.


Pooja Vora is an analyst in the educational transformation team at Ithaka S+R. She contributes to the work of Ithaka S+R on issues of credit transfer and research around failed credits. Prior to joining Ithaka S+R, she worked as a tax law paralegal, where she assisted clients with individual tax issues. She has also worked in immigration law to help foreigners obtain immigrant and non-immigrant visas and in patent law to help clients obtain patent approvals. Pooja holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in political science and public relations from Temple University. Chris Buonocore is the Director of Student Success Initiatives at Lehman College, City University of New York. Chris is responsible for coordinating on-campus consulting efforts, including leading the implementation of EAB Navigate. He is an expert in Peoplesoft and Degree Works data and strategy, particularly as it relates to working with transfer students. Chris is also part of the ACT grant project management team and coordinates development and training for Transfer Explorer.

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