U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced bipartisan legislation to make it easier for students to get degrees they have already earned by ‘reverse’ transferring college credits from four-year institutions to community colleges.
For certain workers, an associate’s degree or certificate is the most affordable, accessible pathway toward a higher-paying job. Many job openings in growth industries such as cybersecurity and healthcare do not typically require a four-year degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly half of employed college graduates across the country are in jobs that require less than a four-year college education.
“This bipartisan bill will make it easier for people to receive degrees that they’ve already paid for, worked towards, and earned,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill will give schools one more tool to prepare degree seekers for the workforce – equipping them with credentials that would have otherwise been left on the table. These folks will enter the job market with higher earning potential and better positioned to repay any student loan debt they might have accrued. As the Senate works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, I’m hopeful that we can work together to advance this and other bipartisan, consensus proposals.”
“I am happy to introduce legislation with Senator Warner to streamline the reverse transfer process. Eliminating this regulatory hurdle will enable millions of students to get credit for their college coursework and finally attain a degree or certificate,” said Sen. Hatch. “Students with a credential are more likely to be employed and earn higher wages than non-credentialed individuals over the course of their lifetime. In an ever-evolving and competitive job market, we must ensure that students are able to get credit for the work they have done so that they can have a better chance for success in today’s workforce.”
Roughly one-third of occupations require some postsecondary education, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that at current graduation rates, our economy will face a shortage of 5 million workers with the necessary education and training by 2020. Increasing the number of Americans with postsecondary credentials, such as associate’s degrees or certificates, will be essential to addressing this challenge. The National Student Clearinghouse, an educational nonprofit that verifies enrollment data, has identified over four million individuals – including more than 123,000 Virginians – who have completed enough credit hours at a four-year institution to be eligible for an associate’s degree, but instead withdrew without a degree or certificate.
“This bipartisan legislation will help students get degrees they’ve earned and save money,” said Sen. Warren. “Washington should make it easier — not tougher — for hardworking students to get an education and prepare for their careers.”
“This commonsense bill will help hardworking students get better jobs and enjoy the success they have earned by removing bureaucratic hurdles,” said Sen. Isakson. “I’m glad to introduce this measure as we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.”
The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to create a new exemption for the sharing of student education records between higher education institutions. “Reverse transfer” refers to the transfer of credits from a four-year institution to a two-year institution that a student previously attended. Currently, students must proactively give permission for their institutions to determine whether they have earned enough credits to be awarded a degree or certificate—a bureaucratic step proven to diminish credential attainment rates.
Facilitating the practice of reverse transfer would ease students’ access to postsecondary credentials they have already earned and better provide for the demands of the future workforce and economy. The bill would allow an institution to share a student’s academic records with another institution that the student previously attended under the condition that the credit information is sent with the goal of conferring a degree, and that the student provides written consent prior to receiving any degree for which he/she is eligible.
“As Virginia’s Community Colleges continue working to prepare students with the skills they need to be successful in on-demand jobs and growth industries, credential attainment is a key indicator of their career readiness and our effectiveness in serving them,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “The bipartisan Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act will provide much needed clarity in facilitating communication between institutions and removing bureaucratic obstacles to credential attainment. I applaud Senators Warner and Hatch for working across the aisle to find common ground and introduce this sensible approach to advancing workforce readiness.”
“AACRAO believes the additional FERPA exception proposed in the reverse transfer legislation represents a responsible means of sharing student information between a student’s 4-year and 2-year institution, while ensuring that the student’s consent is obtained before awarding a degree or certificate,” stated AACRAO’s Executive Director, Michael Reilly. “This legislation will lead to increased education attainment for millions of individuals.”
The legislation has the support of the Virginia Community College System, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, American Association of Community Colleges, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Institute for Higher Education Policy, and Student Veterans of America, among others.
A full list of organizations and higher education systems lending their support for the bill can be found here. For the full text of the bill, click here.