How colleges can reduce loan friction for transfer students


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The City University of New York, a sprawling public system of 25 universities, is at the forefront of numerous student success initiatives. He retention of prohibited records in 2022 and has improved transfer processes: the number of students transferring between one of its two-year campuses, Hostos Community College, to one of its higher education institutions, Lehman College, increased by 14% in two years .

Now, CUNY and its longtime partner Ithaka S+R, a nonprofit education research organization, have developed the CUNY Transfer Explorer . The database allows prospective and current transfer students to see if and how their credits will count toward a degree at one of the system's campuses.

The program, known colloquially as TREX, recently received $4.4 million in new grant funding to make improvements, some of which have already been implemented. Funds will also be used to develop a version of TREX for use outside of the CUNY system.

Pooja Patel, senior analyst with the Ithaka S+R Education Transformation Team, joined Higher Ed Dive to discuss adapting systems for the modern college student and the importance of transparency in the transfer process.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

HIGHER ED DIVE: What kind of feedback has Transfer Explorer received since its release??


How colleges can reduce loan friction for transfer students


POOJA PATEL: It has been very positive. The project was really about helping students get the information they need to transfer successfully. To teach you some facts: It is estimated that 43% of college credits are lost in the transfer process. This is an incredible waste of time and money, not only for students, but also for taxpayers.

CUNY has about 10.000 vertical transfer students coming into its system. If you add in all the different types of transfer students, that's almost 20.000 students. Since its launch, the site has been used by just over 85.000 people attended.

Why is it important for universities and systems to keep their transfer systems up to date?

The path to college is no longer so traditional. Not all students go on to college right out of high school. And along the way, they could have earned all kinds of credits, such as AP exams, military credits, certificates, etc.

But when they arrive at the university, they find that the system is not made for them. They struggle with filtering college websites or talking to advisors to find out how their courses will transfer to the college of their choice.

What kind of updates have you made to the program with this new round of scholarships?

In January, we introduced three new features and a redesigned home page. Now CUNY students – and everyone else, because CUNY TREX is publicly available – can see how a course taken anywhere will transfer to a CUNY university. It's not just CUNY to CUNY anymore.

Beyond the courses, you can see how your exams, like AP or CLEP, are applied.

CUNY students also have a sign-in option that allows them to view their own transcripts and actively track courses they have taken or are currently taking. The improvements implemented have to do with alignment.

What are the next steps for CUNY TREX?

A portion of the new funds will be used to analyze what we call "bad credit" and quantitative student metrics. We'll also be doing more of a qualitative assessment of how Transfer Explorer is being used and implemented.

Ithaka S+R announced plans to develop a version of TREX for broader use. Where is this process currently?

We are in the early stages of mapping what a universal version of TREX will look like and who our partner institutions will be. We do our own due diligence, but if an institution is interested, they should talk to us.

The goal is to develop a product that takes the core functions of CUNY TREX and incorporates the rate equivalency and program request information of most higher education software systems. From there we would climb.

What can colleges outside of CUNY, especially those likely not directly connected to Ithaca, learn from this project?

Universities can help their transfer students by providing clearer information in a simpler format. It's not that most transfer information is inaccurate, it's just not accessible. This is one of the main problems that Transfer Explorer could solve.

Students often find themselves simply researching websites and having multiple meetings with advisors, more than necessary. You are trying to get a straight answer to a simple question: If I have these rates, how will they transfer to this program?

It also helps to provide credit transfer information as early as possible in a student's transfer journey. It is common for students to discover this information after transferring, which is somewhat counterproductive, especially if they see that their rates are not accepted.

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