Swirlers, dualists, reversers and traditionals

by Wendy Kilgore, Ph.D., Director of Research at AACRAO

The how, who, what and why of transfer credit practices are making an increasing mark in the higher education arena.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center:

  • Nearly 10 percent of college students attended more than one institution within the 2014-15 academic year, and
  • 37 percent transferred to another institution within a six-year period.
  • Ten percent of high school students took a dual enrollment class during the 2010-11 academic year.

Given this data, it has been many years since the transfer student population has been "traditional" -- that is, predominantly those who move from a two-year institution to a four-year institution. We now have swirlers, dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and reverse transfers alongside traditional transfer students.

One size does not fit all

Each of these sub-populations of students brings with it the need for idiosyncratic differences in practice, from transfer credit evaluation to advising, pre-college assessment and intra-institutional agreements on articulation and data sharing. No single lens addresses the needs of all of the transfer student sub-populations.

Institutions should draw on expertise from several professional and academic research resources and use these in conjunction with their own institutional culture and student demographics to determine best transfer practices for their institution. 

Resources at AACRAO: Research and guides

AACRAO provides best-practice recommendations for transfer students as well as comparative data on institutional practice. We are also embarking on a research project this spring that will help two transfer partner institutions identify how and why some transfer students end up with excess credits at graduation from the four-year institution and compare the amount and type of excess credits with direct-entry students to assess whether or not being a transfer student increases the likelihood of excess credits at graduation.

Originally published in AACRAO's January 2018 Eye on Research blog.