Interstate Passport | General Information

General Information

Interstate Passport: A New Program for Block Transfer of General Education

Print Version of Passport Overview

Interstate Passport is a learning outcomes-based framework for transfer with the goals of improving graduation rates, shortening time to degree, and saving students’ money. The new transfer framework focuses on lower-division general education, the common denominator among most institutions—concentrating on it as a whole, not on individual courses—and allows for a cross-border “match” of outcomes-integrated general education for block transfer. 

The idea and design for Interstate Passport originated in 2010 as a result of a grass-roots effort led by chief academic leaders in the West seeking a solution for transfer students, who too often lose credits, have to repeat courses, and thus spend additional money to complete their degrees. With approximately 37 percent of today’s students transferring—and nearly 24 percent of them crossing state lines -- according to a study by the National Student Clearinghouse—the Passport promises a new way to streamline transfer students’ pathways to graduation.

Passport Learning Outcomes and Proficiency Criteria

The Interstate Passport framework consists of the Passport Learning Outcomes (PLOs) – what a student should know and/or be able to do – and attendant Proficiency Criteria (PC) – how a student demonstrates proficiency in the learning outcome – in nine knowledge and skill areas. These areas, referencing the Liberal Education and America's Promise Essential Learning Outcomes developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, include:

  • Foundational Skill Areas: Oral Communication, Written Communication, and Quantitative Literacy
  • Knowledge Areas: Natural Sciences, Human Cultures, Human Society and the Individual, and Creative Expression
  • Crosscutting Skill Areas: Critical Thinking, and Teamwork and Value Systems

Faculty Agreement and Student Progress Tracking

Interstate Passport is based on the concepts of faculty agreement and tracking students’ academic progress after transfer. Interstate faculty teams – comprised of two-year and four-year faculty members with expertise in each of the nine areas – reviewed, compared, and contrasted sets of learning outcomes submitted by representatives from participating institutions in multiple states and then negotiated to arrive at an agreed-upon set of learning outcomes – the Passport Learning Outcomes. This same negotiation process was used to develop the proficiency criteria, which are examples of current classroom assignments used by faculty to assess student proficiency.

Faculty members at an Interstate Passport network member institution agree with their colleagues at other Interstate Passport network member institutions to: (1) provide their respective students with appropriate learning opportunities addressing the PLOs; (2) assess these students’ proficiency in achieving the PLOs; and (3) award the Passport to students who have earned it.

As partners in student success, each institution also agrees to submit data on the academic performance of Passport and non-Passport students who transfer to their institution for two terms after they transfer. Registrars and institutional research representatives from institutions participating in project development devised the processes for recording the Passport on student records, and for tracking and reporting the academic progress of Passport students.

At the end of the fall 2016 term and each term thereafter, Interstate Passport network member institutions will submit data on their Passport students to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), which will provide two new services. The first is PassportVerify by which member institutions will be able to query the Clearinghouse to find out if an incoming transfer student has earned the Passport and if so, where and when. Through the second new service – Academic Progress Tracking – NSC will produce and deliver reports to  Interstate Passport network member sending institutions about the  academic progress of their former students for use in continuous improvement efforts, as well as a composite report to the Passport Review Board, the project’s policy-making body, for use in evaluating the overall effectiveness of the Passport program. See Handbook for Registrars and Institutional Researchers for more information.

Participating in the Passport Framework’s Development

Faculty, registrars, institutional researchers, academic advisors, and campus marketing specialists from two-year and four-year institutions are currently involved in additional development and testing of the Passport Framework. Some have been involved since the first phase kicked off in 2011 while others joined more recently to evaluate the process of applying for Passport status or to pilot the process of mapping critical assignments to the PLOs. Participants hail from 16 states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, Utah, and Wyoming.

Becoming Part of the Interstate Passport Network

As of July 1, 2016, regionally accredited public and private not-for-profit institutions may apply to become members of the Interstate Passport Network. To be approved by the Passport Review Board, an institution’s faculty must agree that its learning outcomes are congruent with and not in conflict with the PLOs, and are acceptable as a basis of block transfer. Faculty also must also construct the institution’s Passport Block, a list of courses or learning experiences by which its students can achieve the PLOs. See Faculty Handbook: How to Construct Your Institution’s Passport Block (March 2017 edition). The registrar must put in place processes to award the Passport to students who achieve it, recognize incoming transfer students with a Passport as having fulfilled the lower-division general education requirements in the Passport’s nine areas, and supply data to NSC as described above. Institutions sign a Memorandum of Agreement for a five-year renewable term and may pay an annual membership fee.  

Funding and Managing Interstate Passport

Interstate Passport has been developed and rolled out in phases with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and a First in the World grant from the U.S. Department of Education. It is managed by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), one of four regional compacts established by the U.S. Congress in the 1950s to facilitate the sharing of information and expertise in the higher education community.

More Information

More information is available at or contact Cathy Walker, project manager, at