LITTLE ROCK — Hundreds of Arkansas college students who have transferred from a two-year school to a four-year institution will immediately qualify for an associate degree under a program funded by a coalition of private groups, the state Higher Education Department said Monday.
Last week, the state received a $500,000 grant funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Helios Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation and USA Funds to help create the structure necessary to award associate degrees to transfer students when the student competes the requirements for the associate degree while pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
The practice is commonly known as "reverse back," or "reverse transfer," said Brandi Hinkle, spokeswoman for the Higher Education Department.
"I believe they have already identified a certain criteria … and so based on that, we think initially it will impact immediately about 1,600 students that will be able to just reverse transfer without having to take any other course work," Hinkle said.
The new program is needed, Hinkle said, because many two-year-college students transfer to a four-year-school before getting their associates degree and then take courses at the new school without ever graduating.
"This way they can at least have some degree and not 100 hours with no degree," she said.
The $500,000 grant is part of a 12-state, $6.4 million initiative called "Credit When It’s Due: Recognizing the Value of The Quality Associate Degree."
The grant supports a broad plan that involves all the state’s colleges and universities in doubling the number of degree holders in the state by 2025, state higher education officials said.
"This is a great opportunity to add one more part to our Student Success Center aimed at improving retention and graduation rates," sad Ed Franklin, president and CEO of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges. "The grant will not only benefit the student, but will benefit the state as we produce more graduates which in turn will demonstrate the readiness of our workforce to potential employees."
Officials said the grant funds will be used to:
—Develop and implement a web-based interactive credit tracking and reverse transfer notification application.
—Implement statewide rules and guidelines for automatic reverse credit transfer.
—Identify and remove any remaining institutional barriers to a statewide automatic reverse transfer system.
—Train academic advisers, faculty and staff at two- and four-year colleges and universities in how to promote and advise students on reverse transfer.