A new partnership provides community college students who transfer to one of the three state-supported universities another way to take advantage of the college credits they’ve earned.

Iowa Department of Education Community College Administrator Jeremy Varner says the partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse allows students to do what’s called a reverse credit transfer.

“They can take credits that they earn at the university and transfer them back to community college they came from to earn an associate degree,” Varner explains. “So essentially these students have already earned a two-year degree — but historically they haven’t received that on the way. This reverse credit transfer process provides a vehicle for them to earn that.” Varner says the two-year degrees can be beneficial to students in several ways.

“Associate degrees have labor market value. So a student if they don’t complete a four-year degree or they stop out on their way, we know the research shows that an associate degree provides them a benefit in the labor market. Employers are looking for students with college degrees,” Varner says. He is not concerned a student might get their two-year degree and then think they don’t need to complete all the work for the four-year degree.

He says students who transfer expect to get a four-year degree, and he says the two-year degree could help them get a job that helps support them as they complete the four-year degree. Varner says studies show individuals who earn associate degrees finish four-year degrees at higher rates and earn more money. He says this program supports the Future Ready Iowa initiative, which calls for 70% of Iowa workers to have education or training beyond high school by 2025.

“Employers are very thirsty for skilled labor and this helps meet their needs in terms of finding employees with college degrees,” Varner says. Students can take advantage of the program by agreeing to have their university transcripts sent back to their community colleges, which will determine whether the students’ university courses have met requirements for degrees or other credentials.

The state’s three public universities are encouraging students who have transferred in with 30 or more community college credits to participate. For more information, visit Iowa’s Reverse Credit Transfer website.