Reverse Credit Transfer: A Completion Strategy that Indiana’s Earned

At a time when Indiana is falling short of its higher education completion goals and the proportion of Hoosiers with some college but no degree exacerbates the skills gap, an education process called ‘reverse credit transfer’ can help address both needs. This strategy would award associate’s degrees to students who have earned all the right credits but who missed out on a diploma after transferring from community college to a four-year university.

This report finds that over half of the students who transfer from Indiana’s community colleges to four-year universities have no degree after six years. Meanwhile, there are almost 890,000 Hoosiers with some college education, but no degree to show for it, including over 600,000 with a year or more of studies. At the same time, only 33.8 percent of Indiana’s working population has at least an associate’s degree, well short of its goal of 60 percent attainment by 2025. These Hoosiers are often stuck in low-skill, low-wage jobs, and are the target population for reverse credit transfer.

Earning an associate’s degree through reverse credit transfer would benefit Indiana’s students, employers and the state. Students with an associate’s degree earn an average $5,000 more per year than those with some college education, but no degree, and are nearly a third less likely to be unemployed. Going along with increased personal earnings, for every Hoosier who earns a degree through reverse credit transfer, the state stands to gain $292 per year in increased revenues. If Indiana can convert a third of its ‘some college, no degree’ population to associates degrees through reverse credit transfer, the state stands to gain an additional $59,259,356 each year.

While a dozen other states have received grants of up to $500,000 to implement reverse credit transfer programs, Indiana has been left behind because to date the state has not articulated a cohesive statewide plan. This has become an issue of competitiveness, as states and neighbors such as Ohio have used reverse credit transfer to advance their ‘number one priority’ of college completion.
The report makes six recommendations for Indiana to create a reverse credit transfer program and to become competitive for potential grants: 1. incorporate a coordinated reverse credit transfer program into the state’s existing completion strategy; 2. cast the widest net possible to get degrees for the most students possible; 3. scale up to a statewide approach that includes as many majors and degree pathways as possible; 4. reach back and boost completion by including ‘near completers’ from previous years; 5. communicate effectively and keep student costs to a minimum; and 6. use best practices from other states to Indiana’s benefit.