Transferring Credit

Transferring academic credit from one or many institutions to your "home" institution (the college or university from which you plan to earn your degree) can be a complicated and difficult process. We have assembled information and tools to help you understand the "ins and outs" of credit transfer, general rules for credit transfer, records you will need, and how you can ensure the maximum number of credits you have accumulated will transfer.

While credit is the academic "coin," you need to know that these "coins" have very different values and use depending upon a variety of factors. Where you earned your credits, how long ago, by what means, and how well you did in previous coursework all factor into the number of credits you might be awarded. Ultimately the institution that you plan to earn your degree from holds the authority and final decision about the number of credits that will transfer and, more importantly, which credits will articulate (or count) towards specific degree requirements. Given all these variables, you need to be aware of some fundamentals of credit transfer as well as the resources and services available to you. You need to develop a plan for ensuring you will receive the maximum return on the credits you have earned towards a degree.

There are a variety of transfer categories, some of which have been carefully arranged and articulated for you that ensure ease in the transfer process. Other categories are less automatic. Be aware of this as you move forward. Here are some transfer categories that might help. These categories presume all colleges and universities are regionally accredited and are either public or independent (not-for-profit).

  • Two-year (A.S and A.A) to four-year colleges and universities — these transfer arrangements are often formalized by states or state systems (see links below). Students completing an associate of arts or associate of science degree from a community college often can receive full credit and junior standing at another state institution through articulation agreements. Transfer from two-year to four-year may also be by design in what is called a "two plus two" arrangement where the student completing the associate's degree moves directly into a coordinated upper level program to complete the bachelor's degree.
     
  • Four-year to four-year colleges and universities — typically not covered by formal arrangements, these may be situations where students enrolled as a regular or "non-degree" students, accumulated credits and now wish to transfer them to their "home" institution. The credits often will transfer (assuming you have earned an acceptable grade) but may not meet specific requirements or may be accepted as elective credit or as "additive" credit (meeting no requirements but listed as transfer credits on your transcript).
     
  • Four-year to two-year institutions — some students take a reverse path, possibly having completed some coursework at a four-year institution and now are seeking a degree at a two-year institution. There are also some "reverse two plus two" programs where a student completes coursework at a four-year institution and returns to a two-year institution to complete a program of study.
     
  • Multiple credits from multiple institutions to a "home" institution — a growing number of students are taking courses from a variety of institutions and hoping to "bank" them eventually at an institution and earn a degree. This can work, but credits earned in this fashion are subject to greater scrutiny — particularly if you were not an admitted student at the college or university where you earned the credit.
     
  • Proprietary (even when regionally accredited) to public and independent institutions — whether appropriate or not, students attempting to transfer credit from a proprietary institution to a public or independent college or university often face a loss of credit in the transfer process.
     
  • Credits earned through assessment, prior learning, credit equivalency, and other non-traditional means to a "home" institution — there are significant differences in institutional policy regarding the acceptance of credits earned through alternative methods, both in terms of the number that might be acceptable and use of the credits. You should research the policies of your "home" institution prior to registering for any alternative credit program.

Here are some helpful tips you should consider as you begin your efforts to transfer your credits.

  • Check on any formal articulation agreement within your state that ensures the transfer and articulation of credit. Some states have online transfer tools to help with the process.
     
  • If your state has such a credit transfer or articulation agreement, recognize that the arrangements typically do not traverse state lines, i.e., if you wish to pursue a degree from an institution in another state, credits may transfer but not in "bulk."
     
  • Be watchful of "old" credits that may have been earned years ago and which may not be accepted as transfer credits.
     
  • Remember that only credits transfer, not grades — if an earlier educational experience was not successful, it does not preclude your credits being accepted.
     
  • As best you can, try to enroll in courses that are generally transferable — this means staying away for "unique" or "pop" courses offered by many institutions. 
     
  • Become knowledgeable about general education or core courses that you will need and specific requirements in your major. 
     
  • Find a contact in the registrar's office and in your academic department to assist you in the credit transfer process. 
     
  • Keep good records! That includes transcripts, catalogs (for course descriptions) from the college or university where you earned credit, and if available course syllabi or outlines. This information can prove very helpful in determining the applicability of credits to course requirements.
     
  • If you are planning to take courses at another institution while you are currently enrolled in a college or university in hopes of transferring the credit back to meet a requirement, be sure you have agreement on the transfer BEFORE taking the course.
     
  • Finally, understand transfer policies and regulations. Your knowledge and understanding will be of great assistance in the process.

For additional information read the SREB report, "Clearing Paths to College Degrees: Transfer Policies in SREB States"

 

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