Students of Maricopa Community Colleges retroactively earning associate degrees

Tempe, AZ | Submitted by Ted Bland

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In one of the largest community college systems in the country, with approximately 200,000 students at ten colleges, a team is working in partnership with Arizona universities to ensure that students who earn them receive an associate degree.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Helios Education Foundation, the Maricopa Community College District’s (MCCD) reverse transfer program has aligned with Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona to identify students who have transferred from MCCD to a university. The program allows them to track credits and award associate degrees to students who have completed the appropriate coursework.

It’s an important effort, since having an associate degree can boost earning potential, and is even likely to spur students to complete bachelor level education. Having an associate degree can unlock job opportunities for students who need to work while they pursue higher degrees. In Arizona today, fewer than half of residents have completed postsecondary education, despite the fact that most jobs now require it. The Arizona Education Progress Meter goal to increase this to 60 percent by the year 2030 is aided by the reverse transfer program.

With an increasingly mobile student population, MCCD leaders knew that they would need a way to reach students who begin at the community college before transferring to a university. Working with the universities, they developed ways to let students opt into the reverse transfer program. MCCD also shares the word via social media and conducts individual outreach to connect with students who are a good fit for the program.

After only a few years in existence, the reverse transfer program is showing strong impact. More than 800 students have been awarded associate degrees. But more telling? Half of those individuals are first-generation college students, and one in five did not grow up speaking English in the home. Here is what some students had to say:

  • “I appreciate Maricopa Community Colleges taking the time to recognize students’ work.” — Grezia, Associate in Arts
  • “I’m so overjoyed and can’t believe I didn’t know I had finished my associate degree. Thank you so much.” — Vanessa, Associate in Arts
  • “I had no idea that I had completed the required courses for my associates. I transferred to ASU to obtain my Bachelor in Finance. Thank you for contacting me.” — Wesley, Associate in Arts
  • “Thank you so very much. This means a lot to me. I am very excited that I finally will have something to show for my work.” — Nena, Associate in Applied Science

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