Students are moving between institutions and earning college credit from more sources than ever before on their path towards a postsecondary degree. Despite this increase in mobility and access, students lose an estimated 43 percent of their college credits when transferring to a new institution. Losing earned credits wastes students’ time, money, and makes them less likely to graduate—and historically underserved groups including Black, Hispanic, and lower-income students are even more likely to face obstacles during transfer.

At Ithaka S+R we’re working with our partners to improve the transfer process by conducting critical research and creating new tools that enable students to chart their higher education journey.

Universal Credit Transfer Explorer

Increasingly, students’ educational journeys are not linear. They move multi-directionally between community colleges and four-year institutions and between public and private universities. They accumulate college credits through workforce training and dual enrollment programs. They start in one state and continue in another. To help address the many challenges college students face when they attempt to transfer credits they have earned, Ithaka S+R is launching a new, public, non-profit, national credit mobility website. This “universal credit transfer explorer” will go live in mid-2024 with data from an inaugural set of institutions across three states, thanks to collaborations with the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, and the Washington Student Achievement Council.

Unique among similar services, the site will show how credits earned elsewhere transfer and apply toward degree programs at the multiple destination colleges and universities featured on the site. The funding for this new website is provided through the generous support of philanthropic foundations including Ascendium Education Group, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ECMC Foundation, and The Ichigo Foundation. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the funders.

CUNY Transfer Explorer

Since June 2019, we’ve partnered with The City University of New York (CUNY) to streamline the information, advising, and administrative processes around how credits—earned anywhere in the CUNY system, at other colleges and universities, and through dual enrollment or workforce training—transfer and count towards a degree at each CUNY institution.

To empower students to make informed decisions on the path towards their degrees, we collaborated to develop CUNY Transfer Explorer, or CUNY T-Rex, a public platform that hosts accessible, up-to-date information on how credits will transfer.

CUNY Transfer Explorer is a product of the Articulation of Credit Transfer project, a collaboration between CUNY, Lehman College, and Ithaka S+R. CUNY Transfer Explorer was created with funding from The Heckscher Foundation for Children and has received additional support from Ascendium Education Group, the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation, ECMC Foundation, The Ichigo Foundation, and CUNY. CUNY Transfer Explorer builds on the pioneering work of Queens College professor emeritus Christopher Vickery.

Building Transfer Pathways

Effective transfer pathways are crucial for an increasingly mobile student population and can also help four-year colleges and universities meet their enrollment goals. We’ve undertaken several projects to provide practical, research-based guidance to leaders of both community colleges and four-year colleges who want to improve transfer pathways and better support transfer students.

Currently, Ithaka S+R is serving as an independent evaluator of the Transfer Pathways to the Liberal Arts initiative, supported by Teagle Foundation and Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, which provides funding to state and regional associations to pursue consortium-level pathways from community colleges to private liberal arts colleges.

Holistic Credit Mobility

In order to better support students to gain credit for validated learning, we developed a framework for understanding student mobility and devising solutions that center student success, with support from the Ascendium Education Group.