'Reverse transfer' may help students get their associate degrees

Aug 28, 2017

North Dakota University System Director of Academic Affairs Lisa Johnson.
Credit ND University System

The North Dakota University System has a new initiative to help college students increase their degree completion.

It’s a new take on “Reverse Transfer.”

"We've always thought of 'reverse transfer' traditionally as somebody who attended a four year school, physically left and transferred to a two year institution," said NDUS Director of Academic Affairs Lisa Johnson. "The new thought is to allow the students to remain at their four year institution, but transferring coursework back to a two year school they previously attended."

Johnson said it’s not uncommon, where students might transfer from a two year school to a four year school without completing their associate degrees. She said this “reverse transfer” of credits allows them to complete that degree.

"As our people who promote reverse transfers say, 'Life happens,'" Johnson said. "Sometimes family situations, job opportunities, whatnot, necessitate stepping back and taking a break from that."

Johnson said some students want that associate degree to bring closure to that part of their academic lives.

"That can't be taken away from you, once that's documented," Johnson said.

A second initiative to help increase degree rates has been an effort by the campuses to contact students who began their studies at the colleges but are no longer enrolled anywhere in North Dakota.

"The campuses felt that if we had the ability to query across the system to see who could be eligible for reverse transfer, why stop there?" Johnosn said. "Why not reach out to former students who have not completed their studies to see if they want to return?"

Johnson said that effort just started for the fall semester.

"We've had some success," Johnson said. "The message is the same, just this nudge to return."

Johnson said the system is right now targeting undergraduate degrees for that effort.

"We're looking at students who have good academic standards, had a significant number of credits, and left a school in good standing," Johnson said. "We're just offering the encouragement to return and complete that degree."