Messer Bill to Help More Transfer Students Earn Degrees Included in Higher Ed Package


Ivy Tech, Indiana Higher Ed Commission, Indiana Chamber Key Supporters

U.S. Rep. Luke Messer’s (IN-06) bipartisan legislation to help more community college transfer students earn degrees was included as an amendment, by unanimous consent, to a broader higher education package that passed the House Committee on Education and the Workforce this week.

The bill is supported by Ivy Tech Community College, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Student Veterans of America and others.

Tuesday night, the Committee voted to include Messer’s proposal — originally introduced as the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2017 in September, — as part of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4508, the PROSPER Act). Messer’s proposal would make it easier for students to earn a degree through a “reverse transfer,” where students who transferred from a community college to a four-year-institution but haven’t completed a bachelor’s degree, can apply those additional credits back toward an associate’s degree

The provision would streamline credit sharing between community colleges and four-year institutions so transfer students can be notified when they become eligible to receive an associate’s degree through a reverse transfer.

“An associate’s degree can make a huge difference for working Hoosiers,” Messer said. “By making it easier for transfer students to combine credits and get a degree they’ve earned, Hoosiers will have more opportunities to get good-paying jobs and succeed in today’s workforce.”

More than 30 percent of students who transfer from a community college to a 4-year institution drop out before completing a bachelor’s degree. But often, they’ve earned enough for an associate’s degree if those credits are transferred back. Between 2003 and 2013, nearly two million transfer students nationwide who were eligible for an associate’s degree were not awarded diplomas. Associate degree holders earn about $400,000 more in a lifetime than someone with only a high school diploma.

Ivy Tech Community College President Sue Ellspermann has been a leading advocate of reverse transfers and is urging support of Messer’s legislation.

“Streamlining the Reverse Transfer process is in the best interest of students who earned a credential which they deserve,” saidPresident of Ivy Tech and former Lieutenant Governor of Indiana Sue Ellspermann. “Thousands of students transfer to different schools annually in Indiana, both in-state and out-of-state. We owe it to our students to help them improve their lives and award them for the work they have already done.”

Ivy Tech has awarded 270 associate degrees to students over the last two years through reverse transfer, but Ellspermann says many others could be eligible.

Messer’s bill would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which currently regulates the sharing of student credit information between higher education institutions, to make the process more open and efficient.