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    Everything You Should Know About Reverse Transfer

    Transferring from a 4-year institution to a community college can be smart for many students, especially since it may allow them to earn a 2-year degree while staying at their current school.
    By Diane Melville - Updated: February 19, 2016

    What You'll Learn

    • What "reverse transfer" is.
    • Reasons why a student might want to reverse transfer.
    • Why students may want to complete an AA or AS before transferring.
    Man holding paper with headphones

    Reverse transfer is the process of moving from a 4-year institution to a community college. At first glance, that may not make a ton of sense. Why would someone want to leave a 4-year institution to attend a community college?

    Reasons For Reverse Transfer

    There are many reasons a student might reverse transfer. Here are just a few:

    • A student can no longer afford to continue attending a 4-year university; thus, they transfer back to a community college to complete their degree.
    • The academic rigor of the 4-year university was too difficult.
    • The student transferred from community college to a 4-year institution before earning an AA or AS degree; thus, the student transfers credits earned at the 4-year university back to the community college in order to earn a 2-year degree while simultaneously earning a bachelor's degree.

    Credits Where Credits Are Due

    That last reason above is the most interesting—and potentially most confusing. Essentially, if a student transfers from a community college before earning a degree there, he or she isn't recorded as a "successful" community college graduate by the government. So, even if the student transfers and earns a bachelor's degree, the community college gets zero credit for the success. You can see how this can cause some issues.

    The reverse transfer process addresses this a couple ways. First, it lets community college transfers earn an AA degree after transferring and completing their remaining credits at a 4-year institution. Second, it lets community colleges record the student as having successfully graduated from community college. Win-win!

    The Underlying Issue

    Frankly, how community colleges record their data is of little concern to a community college student. The bigger problem there is a community college student transferring before earning a degree.

    A lot of students want to get out of community college ASAP, so they complete as few credits as possible before applying to transfer. While it is possible to be admitted to a 4-year school prior to completing an AA degree, there are significant disadvantages to transferring early.

    Some questions to ask yourself before making this move include:

    • How much will it cost you? The same general education course will cost significantly more at a 4-year university than at a community college. By transferring before you earn a degree, you simply sign up to pay a lot more money for the same courses.
    • Are you really prepared academically to transfer? General education degrees (AA and AS) are designed to give you a solid college academic foundation before transferring to a more rigorous 4-year institution. If you transfer too early, you may find the work too academically challenging to continue.
    • Do you have all the credits you need to transfer into your specific major? You may be denied admission into more selective schools as a transfer student if you do not have all of your pre-requisites completed for your major prior to applying for transfer admission.

    All in all, reverse transfer can be a powerful tool for earning a 2-year degree while attending a 4-year school. If you drop out of college or can no longer afford a 4-year education, you’ll always have the 2-year degree to fall back on for future endeavors (both career and academic). However, if you are thinking of reverse transferring, keep in mind how the federal student loan subsidy rules may affect you.

    As always, talk with your academic adviser about your options before attempting to reverse transfer.

    Por Diane Melville - Actualizado: 19 febrero 2016
    Man holding paper with headphones
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