Students now have a new tool in their job-seeking kit.
Thanks to a statewide pilot program, Portland Community College and Portland State University have agreed to recognize students’ past credit work by awarding associate’s degrees to those who have already transferred from PCC to PSU. Students affected will be those that didn’t formally complete a degree via current data measures when they transferred to PSU, but have since fulfilled two-year degree program requirements. A main benefit is that the degree can help gauge a job-seeker’s skills on a resume.
PCC President Preston Pulliams and PSU President Wim Wiewel officially signed the agreement on Thursday, Nov. 15 at PCC’s Downtown Center location. Pulliams gushed at the partnership his college has formed with Wiewel and PSU.
“This is cool stuff as far as I’m concerned because it’s really recognizing the role that community colleges play in preparing students to succeed at completing their baccalaureate degrees,” he said. “We’re an important part of that pipeline.”
Wiewel added, “This has been a wonderful collaboration.”
In October, the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development and the Oregon University System were awarded a two-year, $450,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation to develop reverse transfer agreements. The effort began a year ago when representatives from the two organizations visited the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College to see what they were doing in that area. From there, a group of 10 community colleges and seven universities along with CCWD and OUS applied for the national grant. In October, Oregon was one of 12 states in the nation to get it.
“We’re hoping to scale that up to go statewide in the future,” said Elizabeth Cox Brand, director of research and communication for CCWD. “We’re very excited about this. It is part of a bigger picture that is going on in the state with student success.”
State Rep. Michael Dembrow, who co-chairs the Higher Education Committee and has spent 31 years at PCC as an English instructor, helped develop the Transfer Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities that paved the way for reverse transfer agreements in Oregon. Rep. Dembrow said the intention is to bolster the state’s “40-40-20” goal where 40-percent of Oregonians have at least a bachelor’s degree, 40-percent have an associate’s degree or certificate, and 20-percent have a high school diploma.
“I know first hand that many of my students transfer with the best of intentions of completing their bachelor’s degree within four years or less, but life then happens and they find themselves with no certification, or affirmation for the work they have done,” Dembrow said. “Those should be counted as having an associate’s degree; they’ve earned it and colleges and universities have done their bid in educating them. They should be recognized for that.”
Student Sean Jefferis, who transferred from PCC to Portland State, but never got his associate’s degree, said many students move on without getting their two-year degree. Personally, he said this agreement will recognize his past work and spur him on to complete not only his bachelor’s degree, but possibly attend graduate school.
“The moment I complete my requirements, to know that there’s going to be an associate’s degree that is signed and given to me, that is a huge validation of my efforts and of the time and the energy that I have put into receiving a higher education,” Jefferis said. “It’s a wonderful feeling.”