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The American Indian College Fund (College Fund) has released a "Transfer Data Guidebook for Tribal Colleges and Universities," marking the conclusion of a three-year research endeavor funded by a $625,000 grant from the Educational Credit Management Corporation.

This initiative focused on enhancing student achievement through the establishment of a cohesive transfer system across the seven Montana tribal colleges and universities (TCUs). The guidebook aims to facilitate supported educational pathways from certificate to baccalaureate degrees, facilitating smooth transfers among the Montana TCU institutions to ensure timely degree completion. It offers valuable insights for TCUs seeking to enhance their student transfer data and processes.

Given that nearly 40% of college students transfer at least once during their academic journey, transfer students represent a significant yet often neglected demographic in the educational landscape. The prevalent route for transfer students is from a two-year college to a four-year institution, with many being first-generation and students of color. Unfortunately, studies indicate that a majority of transfer students lose approximately 37% of their college credits upon transferring. These challenges are particularly pertinent for TCUs, which primarily offer associate degrees to communities predominantly composed of Native and first-generation students.

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The guidebook serves as a valuable resource for TCUs by furnishing a foundational understanding of transfer processes and supporting the development of effective transfer data practices. Covering various aspects from software and security to transfer agreements and advising, the guide offers comprehensive guidance for establishing transfer pathways. Implementing a robust transfer data system not only enhances support for students transitioning to other institutions but also provides analytical insights that colleges can leverage to streamline transfer processes further.

The collaborative efforts between the College Fund and the Montana TCUs, involving surveys, data sharing, and insights into the transfer landscape and program requirements, were instrumental in bringing this guidebook to fruition. This collaboration led to the establishment of 14 articulation agreements among the participating TCUs and the formulation of a universal policy to support students, mitigate credit loss, and facilitate on-time graduation despite transfers. These achievements serve as exemplary outcomes that the College Fund hopes other TCUs will emulate with the assistance of the guidebook.

David Sanders, Vice President of Research, Evaluation, and Faculty Development at the College Fund, emphasized the significance of the Transfer Data Guidebook in supporting transfer students both within and outside TCU institutions. He highlighted its comprehensive coverage, including articulation agreements, success support structures, systems infrastructure, and other essential considerations, making it an invaluable resource for TCUs as they endeavor to develop crucial services supporting student mobility.

“For Tribal College students, who represent a large contingent of first generation, non-traditional, single parent, PELL eligible populations, a clear pathway for transfer is crucial. If they do not have a clear roadmap for transfer, they oftentimes find themselves in their final term of their academic program, very close to graduation and do not have the financial resources to complete their programs," Sandra Boham, president of Salish Kootenai College, said.

The guide is available for download at https://collegefund.org/tcu-transfer-data-guidebook-2023. TCUs can also request a hard copy from the College Fund by emailing Crystal Hedgepeth at [email protected].

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