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Earning the associate's: Reverse transfer agreement allows ETSU students to get two-year degree

Rex Barber • Aug 6, 2013 at 4:45 PM

If you’re really serious about it, you can now earn credits toward an associate’s degree at East Tennessee State University.

Many students start their undergraduate studies at schools like Northeast State Community College or Walters State Community College but transfer to a four-year baccalaureate-awarding university as soon as possible, never earning that associate’s degree available at the community college.

If you are one such student, now you can earn that associate’s degree if you attended NSCC or WSCC and transferred to ETSU.

This reverse transfer agreement was announced at ETSU Tuesday morning by ETSU President Brian Noland and the presidents of NSCC and WSCC, Janice Gilliam and Wade McCamey, respectively.

Noland said this initiative began about 1 1/2 years ago.

“What will come after today is an opportunity for a student who begins their undergraduate experience at one of our sister community colleges who then transfers to ETSU with, lets say with 20 hours under their belt — when they hit that 60-hour credit threshold they will then receive an associate’s degree from the sending institution. And then if they continue along the pathway they’ll receive a bachelor’s degree from ETSU.”

It takes 60 hours of class to earn an associate’s degree for most programs. According to ETSU, NSCC and WSCC students who have completed a minimum of 15 semester hours toward the associate’s degree or 25 percent of the requirements for degree programs that are more than 60 credit hours will be eligible for the reverse transfer program.

This new agreement between the schools furthers the Tennessee Complete College Act and Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with college degrees.

Gilliam said round 80 percent of NSCC students transfer to ETSU. Some students may only take a semester of hours at NSCC before transferring.

“And we’re excited to help them in whatever their goal is, but it would be very helpful to our institution to have a completion point at Northeast State,” she said. “I’m a community college graduate and I treasure that degree as well as my other degrees along the way.”

About 300 students transfer from NSCC to ETSU each year.

McCamey said this program is grounded in research. Many other schools have reverse transfer agreements, he said.

“The institutions win but so do the students,” he said. “A lot of our pre-professional students transfer without stopping long enough to get the associate degree. They come in (to ETSU) with 54 hours, they need six more hours then the first two courses here at the university that would qualify would allow that person to send those hours back.”

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