It’s every student’s nightmare: you’ve just transferred to a new college or university and you learn that one (or more than one) of your previous classes don’t fulfill the degree requirements. You might have been planning on graduating in a certain amount of time, and that timeline is instantly expanded due to having to retake class(es) in order to meet learning requirements that can vary from institution to institution.
If you’re a current student working your way toward a certificate or degree, we have some good news: this semester, TMCC became an Interstate Passport Institution, which means you have the opportunity to earn a “passport”—a set of classes that meet specific learning outcomes. More specifically, Interstate Passport is a nationwide network of two-year and four-year non-profit colleges and universities that have worked together to create block transfer for undergraduate courses across different institutions based on mutually agreed-upon learning outcomes and proficiency targets.
“I’m so excited that TMCC now allows students the ability to earn the Interstate Passport,” said Academic Advisor Tara Connolly. “This opens doors to opportunities students may not have considered previously, especially when it comes to out-of-state transfer.”
According to the data, 38% of students in the United States transfer at least once, with about 27% of those students transferring across state lines. This creates a barrier to degree completion for students who transition from a community college to a four-year university because, oftentimes, not all of their credits transfer across degree programs. However, by being a part of the Interstate Passport Network, TMCC joins 70 institutions in 21 states in offering students the ability to transfer their lower-division coursework by an agreed-upon set of learning outcomes.
With a third of students transferring at least once within six years before receiving a bachelor’s degree, removing any unnecessary barriers can undoubtedly increase the likelihood that students graduate. By participating in the Interstate Passport Network, TMCC is offering yet another way for students to know that whether their education carries them to another NSHE institution or to another state, the knowledge and skills they acquire will serve them well on their journey to graduation.
Interstate Passport Vs. A Two-Year Degree
If you’re wondering if you have to choose between earning a Passport and a degree, the simple answer is “no.” Students can easily earn both a degree and a Passport at the same time.
“That's one of the wonderful things about the Passport program,” Connolly said. “An Associate of Arts or Associate of Science offers guaranteed admission and, for the most part, successful completion of core curriculum courses at another NSHE college or university. Before offering the Passport, we could not offer that certainty to students interested in transferring out of state. But now… students [can] dream big and explore other options knowing the time, money, energy, and effort they spent on courses they completed at TMCC count toward their long term goal somewhere else.”
Associate Dean of Assessment and Planning Melissa Deadmond notes that the Passport can also accommodate students who want to take online classes from more than one institution, especially now that many colleges and universities are offering more opportunities for students to participate in online learning.
“In a way, the Passport recognizes the days of students starting at one institution and graduating from there are waning… that's no longer the traditional route,” Deadmond said. "Now students are acquiring their education from different institutions. There has also been a big shift to online education following COVID-19, so the Passport agreement accommodates these alternative pathways to a degree.”
So, what does a Passport look like? While there are similarities between a Passport and General Education Requirements, the Passport requires students take and pass listed classes with a C or better. While students are welcome to navigate the college catalog on their own to earn a Passport, Connolly suggests meeting with an Academic Advisor.
“We encourage students to meet with any of our knowledgeable academic advisors who will help students map their journey to a Passport while identifying the overlapping classes between a Passport, NSHE general education requirements for transfer, and an associate's degree depending on the student's goals,” she said.
Steps for Current Students
If you’ve been taking classes at TMCC for a semester or more, you may want to schedule an appointment with an Academic Advisor to review your transcripts and to see what you can do to continue on your academic goals while working toward a Passport. This is especially important if you plan on transferring to another institution, in or out of state. After all, it’s always a good idea to do as much as possible to make sure every class counts.
“If the last year and a half have taught us anything, it's that we never know what life is going to throw at us. We've seen students stop out of school as life circumstances have forced them to shift their priorities to work, family, personal health, and more,” said Connolly, who noted that the Passport is just one more way that students can complete an enduring milestone in their education.
“The Passport does not expire. Once you've earned that Passport, you will always have that passport. And whether a student returns to TMCC or transfers to another Passport Member Network school, they are still well on their way to accomplishing their long-term educational goals,” she said.
For more information about the Interstate Passport and how you can earn yours at TMCC, contact Academic Advising at 775-673-7062.