With a goal set by Gov. Mike Beebe to double the number of college graduates in Arkansas by 2025, the state took another step toward that goal by announcing an initiative to award more associate degrees to students who have completed the relevant coursework.
Shane Broadway, interim director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, and Dr. Ed Franklin, president of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges, announced the "Credit When It's Due" initiative, a partnership between the 22 two-year colleges and all 11 four-year public universities, to award associate degrees to students who have earned the required credentials after transferring to a four-year university. The project will be funded by a $500,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation.
Said Broadway: "Credit When It's Due, also known as reverse transfer in the higher education community, is a higher education partnership to significantly increase associate degrees awarded to transfer students when they complete the requirement for the two-year degree while pursuing a bachelor's degree."
"In Arkansas, 45% who transfer from a two-year college to a four-year university never complete the bachelor degree program, yet have 60 degree eligible hours. So on paper, these Arkansans look as though they only graduated high school," said Franklin. "This campaign is about recognizing the value of an associate degree, and recognition for what has already been achieved."
Franklin announced that the Arkansas Research Center is gathering student data from higher education institutions and will notify the awarding institution of the student's status for credentials. He referred to research recently conducted by the Arkansas Research Center in Conway that shows students who complete even a few college courses will make more money than if they never went to college, but getting the degree is worth even more.
"It's never too late to earn a degree," Franklin said.
To be eligible for an Arkansas Credit When It's Due associate degree, a student must have transferred from an Arkansas public two-year college to an Arkansas public four-year university in the fall of 2008, and subsequently earned enough combined college credit hours to meet the state requirements for an associate of arts degree. This is according to the grant guidelines of the University of Illinois-Office of Community College Research and Leadership, the 12-state project manager. Arkansas plans to add additional enrollment years in the future.
"This is just another strategy to improve Arkansas' competitiveness in a global economy, by creating more economic opportunities for our citizens," Broadway said. "This is one more way to reach out and close the deal for those who aspire to earn a higher education degree."