Using a Reverse Transfer May Help You Get an Associate Degree

A reverse transfer lets you get an associate degree at your former community college with credits earned at a four-year school.

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A reverse transfer is a process that allows you to receive an associate degree from your former community college by applying the credits you’ve earned at a four-year college.

For example, say you earn 30 credits at a community college but transfer to a four-year school before receiving an associate degree. At your four-year college, you gain additional credits that fulfill the requirements for an associate degree at your previous community college. You would now be eligible to use the reverse transfer process to receive an associate degree.

In most cases, a reverse transfer can occur between any two colleges that have an agreement allowing the process. Currently, there are 22 states with policies that outline how and when reverse transfers can take place, according to the Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit education policy advisory organization.

A reverse transfer awards you an associate degree for work you’ve already done at little or no cost, boosting your earnings potential and giving you a degree to fall back on if you don’t finish a bachelor’s degree.

Getting a degree through a reverse transfer

Not everyone who previously attended a community college or other associate degree-granting institution is eligible for a reverse transfer. To determine your eligibility, look into your school's and state’s policies.

Here are some typical policies:

  • You must still be enrolled. If you’ve graduated with your bachelor’s degree or stopped enrolling, you’re likely ineligible for a reverse transfer.

  • A transfer gap could render you ineligible. If there’s a gap between your time at a community college and a four-year college, that can also make you ineligible for a reverse transfer.

  • You must meet credit requirements before you transfer. Typically, you’ll need to have completed at least 15 credits at a community college before being eligible for a reverse transfer, according to Lexi Anderson, policy director at the Education Commission of the States.

Not all classes taken at a four-year college will make you eligible for an associate degree through a reverse transfer. However, taking general education, or lower-level courses, can make you more likely to meet the requirements for an associate degree at your community college, Anderson said in an email.

Meet with your counselor to see if you’re eligible for a reverse transfer. If you’re qualified, you’ll typically need to fill out a reverse transfer request form and then your college will send your information to your former community college.

The community college will look at your transcript and determine whether you fulfilled the requirements to be awarded an associate degree. If you do, then, you’ll need to apply for graduation at the community college.

Why get a degree through a reverse transfer

There’s no reason not to take advantage of an associate degree through a reverse transfer. First off, it’s free or carries a low cost, depending on graduation fees. Second, you’ve already done the work to earn the degree; doing a reverse transfer is simply taking the steps necessary to receive that degree.

Finally, if you take advantage of a reverse transfer and don’t end up finishing a bachelor’s degree, you’ll still have a degree. That degree can also boost your earnings potential while you’re still in school earning a bachelor’s degree.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, someone with an associate degree earns an average of $938 a week, compared with someone with some college but no degree, who makes an average of $877 a week.

If you have student loans, you’ll have more options to refinance your loans if you have an associate degree rather than no degree. Nonetheless, some lenders will refinance loans for individuals with no degree.

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