Interstate Passport Initiative

About the Initiative

The Interstate Passport Initiative is a grassroots-originated effort by academic leaders in the WICHE states to advance policies and practices supporting friction-free transfer for students in the region. Under the umbrella of this initiative would be a set of related regional projects which would take place during an approximate five-year time span. Participation at the institution, system, or state levels would be purely voluntary. Some may choose to participate in some projects, not in others, or none at all. WICHE serves as the facilitator for this initiative.

The idea for the Interstate Passport Initiative arose out of a discussion by the members of the executive committee for the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance) in July 2010. These members expressed concern about the difficulties their community college students face in transferring to four-year institutions. Sometimes these students have to repeat courses they have already taken, costing them additional time and money. The committee suggested that a new transfer framework was needed—one that focused on learning outcomes, rather than contact hours. They asked that WICHE convene a meeting of the academic leaders in the Western states to discuss this idea.
 

History of the Interstate Passport Initiative

As a first step in creating the Interstate Passport Initiative, representatives of two regional groups and staff of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) convened a meeting with key stakeholders in the West in February 2011. The meeting was co-chaired by Michel Hillman, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the North Dakota University System, and Peter Quigley, associate vice president of academic affairs for the University of Hawaii System. Participants included representatives of institutions and organizations that participate in the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum) and the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders, along with their designees. These organizations’ members are the chief academic officers in the 15 WICHE states.

The meeting was designed to:

  • Help participants learn more about what Western states are doing to strengthen transfer within and across sectors and state boundaries, within general education blocks and in preparation for discipline-specific majors,
  • Inform leaders about the reforms that are underway in some states to redesign student assessment and articulation around essential learning outcomes and competency-based learning,
  • Discuss current barriers to, and identify opportunities for, a voluntary, multi-institution, multistate initiative to facilitate friction-free student transfer and articulation leading to improved student success and completion, and
  • Engage academic leaders in mapping out potential regional strategies along a continuum of innovation.

Overall the participants were enthusiastic that there was sufficient momentum, commitment, and political will for a larger, multistate effort focusing on a new transfer and articulation framework. Several essential elements and characteristics of the voluntary regional effort were identified. They included: provide transparency and expediency to students, actively engage faculty, foster institutional efficiencies, and assemble a task force to work with the co-chairs to further refine a series of projects and goals.

Specific recommendations included:

  • Focus on the lower-division general education core as a starting point
  • Develop a consensus about terms used to describe a general education core
  • Develop a web-based matrix identifying existing block transfer agreements of the general education core
  • Research the size and complexity of transfer and articulation issues related to the general education core
  • Engage faculty in pilot project to map the general education cores, both in the liberal arts and the STEM disciplines to LEAP’s (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) essential learning outcomes developed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
  • Offer professional development to assist participating schools in learning how to map their cores to measureable outcomes
  • Create a web-based regional repository identifying institutions with cores that successfully map to these outcomes and agree to accept block transfers of these cores from one another to satisfy their general education requirements
  • Providing a way for institutions to acknowledge students whose successful completion of one of these general education cores earns them a WICHE interstate passport/and notation on their transcript to use in seamless block transfer to other participating institutions
  • Develop a feedback system that will inform sending institutions about the progress of their transfer students to assist in continuous improvement efforts, and ultimately
  • Develop student assessments that can be utilized across institutions to verify student outcomes.

The speakers and panelists at the meeting included:

  • Transfer & Articulation: Findings from Recent Research—David Longanecker, President, and Demi Michelau, Director, Policy Analysis, WICHE
  • Overview of AAC&U’s Essential Learning Outcomes—Susan Albertine, Vice President for Engagement, Inclusion and Success, Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
  • WICHE LEAP States: Status and Future Plans
    • CA—John Tarjan, Immediate Past Chair, Academic Senate, California State University
    • ND—Lisa Johnson, Director of Articulation and Transfer, North Dakota University System
    • OR—Bob Turner, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Strategies, Oregon University System
    • UT—Teddi Safman, Assistant Commissioner for Academic Affairs, Utah State Board of Regents and Susan Neel, Professor, Utah State University
  • Mapping to the LEAP Outcomes: A San Francisco State University Case Study—Gail Evans, Dean, Undergraduate Studies; Maggie Beers, Director, Academic Technology

Passport Task Force

At the recommendation of the executive committees for both the Forum and the Alliance, a Task Force was assembled with representatives of the two-year and four-year institutions in the WICHE states. The members included:

  • Geri Anderson, Colorado Community College System
  • Mike Earnest, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Greg Fant, New Mexico State University
  • Sam Gingerich, South Dakota Board of Regents
  • Andrew Hansen, University of Wyoming
  • Mike Hillman, North Dakota University System
  • Nancy Krogh, University of Idaho
  • Sylvia Moore, Montana University System
  • Susan Neel, Utah State University
  • Peter Quigley, University of Hawaii System
  • Jane Sherman, Washington State University
  • Jeff Spano, California Community Colleges
  • Robert Turner, Oregon University System
  • Hyla Winters, College of Southern Nevada

The group met by conference calls on July 13th and 28th. Dr. Hillman and Dr. Quigley set the following parameters for its work.

  • Charge to the Task Force: Identify and prioritize a set of goals for proposed regional projects and their associated research questions.
  • Scope for Potential Projects:
    • Transfer and articulation issues that arise on an interstate level
    • Transfer and articulation issues that are intrastate but common to multiple states where focusing on them collaboratively would make better use of limited resources

Guiding Principles: During the process of discussing goals for potential projects, the Task Force recognized two intense pressures on the higher education community: 1) to increase the number of bachelors’ degrees awarded, and; 2) to change the nature of colleges and universities. Thus, they recommended that the following guiding principles be considered in all projects undertaken by the Passport Initiative:

  • Ensure and demonstrate that students increase their intellectual skills and content knowledge
  • Enable faculty to understand the necessity and ways to proactively respond in a productive manner to the pressures for change

Goals for Passport Initiative Projects: The Task Force reviewed the goals arising from discussion during the February meeting. Two of those goals (Goal 1 and Goal 2 below) were incorporated into Project 1, submitted to the Carnegie Corporation for funding as described above, and Goal 3 was added during the proposal development stage. The Task Force re-prioritized and amended Goal 4 and Goal 5 from the February meeting and added Goal 6. In addition, the Task Force identified a list of research questions that could be associated with future projects tackling these goals. The scope of these projects could focus on a single goal or a combination of the three depending on the requirements of the funder.

  • Goal 1: Provide data and information to understand the status of the general education core and its relationship to state transfer policies and patterns in the 15 WICHE states, the numbers of students who transfer among the WICHE states, the role of outcomes in defining the core, the process by which change in policy occurs in each pilot state, and other matters important to understanding the baseline circumstances relevant to this project.
    • (1.4.a) Research and publish results: To what extent are WICHE state public institutions enrolling students transferring from public institutions in other WICHE states?
    • (1.4.b) Identify existing policies in the WICHE states related to the general education core and post/link to them from Passport website. Analyze their relationship to 1.4.a
    • (1.4.c) Research and publish results: What courses, criteria, or outcomes comprise the general education core in the WICHE states? Where are the similarities and gaps?
    • (1.4.d) Identify existing block transfer agreements for the general education core and post/link to on Passport website matrix.
  • Goal 2: Conduct a pilot project in five WICHE states to establish block transfer agreements within and among those states for the lower-division general education core, based on successful integration of LEAP’s Essential Learning Outcomes.
  • Goal 3: Identify the implications for institutional and state policy for a transfer framework based on learning outcomes for further research and projects.
  • Goal 4: Establish a regional repository for agreements among institutions allowing students with AA and AS degrees to assume junior status upon admission with their general education completed.
  • Goal 5: Conduct a pilot project to identify and establish pathways across the region for students to complete the last 60 hours of their major.
  • Goal 6: Conduct a pilot project to identify and establish pathways across the region for students transferring with an AAS degree to a BAS program.