Students can simultaneously earn associate and bachelor's degrees through Purdue University Global

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Purdue University Global, a public university that offers online degree plans for adults, is partnering with community colleges to allow students to simultaneously earn an associate and bachelor’s degree through “reverse transfer” programs.

Betty Vandenbosch, chancellor of Purdue University Global, told EdScoop that the university’s mission is to help more people get a degree. Reverse transfers support this goal by allowing students to complete an unfinished two-year degree while working toward a bachelor’s degree.

By providing students with a pathway to a degree, individuals can elevate their standing in the workforce and improve their standard of living, she said. The university also partners with community colleges in regions that may have specific talent or skill gaps, to help address workforce shortages.

In little over a year, Purdue Global has partnered with three community colleges to give students access to reverse transfer programs and continues to seek out partnerships with two-year institutions. Purdue Global’s first partnership began in September 2017 with Ivy Technical Community College in Indiana, and recently, Des Moines Area Community College and Eastern Iowa Community College have entered into agreements with the university, Vandenbosch said.

The reverse transfer allows students who haven’t yet completed their associate degree at a community college to continue their education at Purdue Global, saving time and money. If a student comes to Purdue Global and has not yet finished their community college degree, as they work towards their bachelor’s, they will be able to simultaneously earn the remaining credit for their associate degree, Vandenbosch said. Once students have taken the online credits they need to augment the credits earned at their community college, Purdue Global transfers back the new credit to the initial institution. “We let the community college know and then the community college can award them with the associate degree,” said Vandenbosch.

Reverse transfer programs compress the time it takes to earn a degree and keeps costs down for busy adults looking to continue their educations and elevate their career with a degree. The online format allows students the flexibility to pursue a degree at their own pace and customize their pathway to graduation. Vandenbosch said that on average, students are able to save 18 percent on tuition through reverse transfer programs.

The time it takes students to finish an associate degree from their initial institution while working on their bachelor’s from Purdue varies widely, Vandenbosch said. It depends on a student’s motivation, availability, and how many credits they transfer in with from their incomplete degree. Some students can finish their associate degree in less than a year if they are further along in their degree requirements when they reenter school or transfer to Purdue Global, Vandenbosch said.

More and more, university degrees are becoming a basic requirement for career success. Although there are other avenues to further an individual’s education — workshops, micro-credentials, bootcamps — a university degree is more valuable, Vandenbosh said. “The beauty of a university credential is that its transferable,” she said.

The university also allows students to transfer up to 75 percent of their degree requirements from another institution and offers students credit for skill testing and work experience. The university optimizes past work by generously applying previous college study and work experience towards associate and bachelor’s degrees. Vandenbosh said that Purdue Global personalizes students’ path to a degree, helps them get credit for what they do know and then helps them towards a degree.

Purdue Global’s model breaks from those of traditional higher education institutions, which have heavily prescribed ways of transferring credit into and out of the institution. “We need more options because we have different kinds of students than we had 20 years ago,” said Vandenbosh.

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