A New Program for Block Transfer of General Education
Interstate PassportSM is a program that facilitates the transfer of student learning between higher education institutions participating in the Interstate Passport Network. The goals are to improve graduation rates among member institutions and to conduct research in the field of higher education, namely, reviewing and providing analysis of transfer students’ performance data for quality assurance. The program 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 grassroots effort in the West led by chief academic leaders seeking a solution for transfer students, who too often lose credits, have to repeat or take additional 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 -- Interstate Passport promises a new way to streamline transfer students’ pathways to graduation.
Passport Learning Outcomes and Proficiency Criteria
Components of the Interstate Passport program include 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
- Cross-Cutting 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 classroom assignments currently used by faculty to assess student proficiency.
Faculty members at an Interstate Passport Network member institution agree with their colleagues at other 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-Lower Division General Education (Passport-LDGE) 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 into their institution for at least two terms after they transfer. Registrars and institutional research representatives from institutions participating in 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, the program's Interstate Passport Network member institutions will submit data about their Passport students to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). NSC will provide them two new services. The first is PassportVerify by which Interstate Passport Network member institutions will be able to query the Clearinghouse to find out if an incoming transfer student has earned the Passport-LDGE and if so, where and when. Through the second new service – Academic Progress Tracking – NSC will produce and deliver reports to 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 program's policy-making body, for use in evaluating the overall effectiveness of the Interstate Passport program. See Handbook for Registrars and Institutional Researchers for more information.
Participating in Development of Interstate Passport
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 components of the Interstate Passport program. 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
Beginning July 1, 2016, regionally accredited public and private not-for-profit institutions could 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 from other Network member institutions. They 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. The registrar must put in place processes to award the Passport to students who achieve it and to recognize incoming transfer students with a Passport as having fulfilled the lower-division general education requirements in the Passport’s nine areas as well as 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.
Institutions Participating in Development of Interstate Passport Learning Outcomes and Proficiency Criteria
California State University System Faculty Senate
California Community College System Faculty Senate
Leeward Community College
University of Hawai‘i West Oahu
Lake Region State College
North Dakota College of Science
North Dakota State University
University of North Dakota
Williston State College
Blue Mountain Community College
Western Oregon University
Black Hills State University
Dakota State University
Northern State University
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
South Dakota State University
University of South Dakota
Dixie State University
Salt Lake Community College
Southern Utah University
The University of Utah
Utah State University
Utah Valley University
Weber State University
Laramie County Community College
Passport Project Staff
Passport Tri-Region Coordinator
Project Coordinator, Member and Education Services