Students transferring to or from Washington State University who have completed their lower-division general education courses will have a more seamless transition, thanks to a new partnership with the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).

WICHE’s Interstate Passport program provides that students who have attained agreed-upon learning outcomes from those courses can enroll at other member schools with confidence that many general education requirements have been met. It further indicates that they are equipped to tackle and complete upper-division requirements, said Clif Stratton.

He is WSU’s institutional liaison for the program and also serves as director of the University Common Requirements (UCORE) general education program. UCORE is part of the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA).

“We are very proud to be the first Washington institution to join the Interstate Passport member network,” said Bryan Slinker, interim provost and executive vice president. “WSU applauds WICHE for developing and overseeing this valuable option for our students. With our membership, Washington becomes the 15th state to join the network, which includes our neighbors Oregon and Idaho.

“As a WICHE Interstate Passport member, WSU can confidently assure our students that whether they continue with us until graduation, or transfer to a program partner, their basic general education requirements minus capstone experiences are met and will be counted as a block toward degree completion.”

Supporting student mobility

Statistics on the WICHE website point to changing demographics and behaviors of students across America, and to the need to facilitate the transfer of students’ academic achievements. Citing the National Student Clearinghouse, the website said that more than one-third of all first-time students transferred to or enrolled in a different institution at least once within six years and before receiving a bachelor’s degree. Of those who transferred, almost half changed their institution more than once. Of today’s transfer population, nearly one-fifth of community college students transfer across state lines, while nearly one-quarter of students from four-year institutions transfer across state lines.

“With these mobile student populations, it is evident that colleges and universities need to collaborate to increase completions (of degrees) and remain globally competitive,” WICHE said.

Membership benefits

To apply for network membership for a five-year renewable term, WSU had to construct a passport block—a menu of courses and learning experiences by which its students achieve specific learning outcomes. All WSU students who complete the courses in the passport block will get a badge on their academic transcript signifying such. This is a new feature.

“That distinction,” said Slinker, “attests to the fact that those students have attained an educational benchmark that is recognized at every Interstate Passport member school. It also lets prospective students know that their student achievements will be recognized by these educational partners in a meaningful way.”

Waylon Safranski is director of the WSU Transfer Clearinghouse that works with students who has earned credits at a different institution. He said the indication of passport completion will help new students transferring to WSU and also streamline some of the processing done by the university.

“Lower-division general education courses coming in as a block from member schools will make transferring more seamless,” he said.

“I hope that a lot of colleges and universities in Washington and beyond will consider joining the network. That would expand the number of schools whose students benefit from this network.”

Benefits all around

Stratton will represent WSU on WICHE’s Interstate Passport Review Board, the program’s policy-making body.

“I believe WSU’s entrance into the program will be of tremendous benefit to the university and our current and future students, to UCORE, and to our state,” said Stratton. “Most importantly, it is one more way in which we serve all of our students well and helps us deliver the best educational experience possible.”