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ECMC Foundation Launches Catalyzing Transfer Initiative

Nearly $4.5M funding commitment aims to increase successful transfer of postsecondary credits and timely bachelor degree completion

January 13, 2021


LOS ANGELES, January 11, 2021 – ECMC Foundation announced today the launch of the Catalyzing Transfer Initiative (CTI), a national shared learning and collaboration effort between high-impact non-profit organizations that aims to build, manage, and activate new ways to increase successful transfer of postsecondary credits and timely bachelor degree completion among marginalized racial and ethnic groups.

Only 13 percent of students who start at community college earn a bachelor’s degree within six years (source: National Center for Education Statistics). As students transfer, their credits don’t always follow. The CTI was created to address the challenges students face when attempting to transfer their credits to a four-year program. ECMC Foundation has committed nearly $4.5 million in grants to the following organizations to form the CTI: American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Education Commission of the States (ECS), Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).

“Community colleges are a gateway to higher education and play a critical role in workforce development, local and regional economic development, and addressing the country’s greatest challenges,” said Peter Taylor, president, ECMC Foundation. “The launch of the Catalyzing Transfer Initiative reimagines the higher education transfer system. We look forward to working with the CTI partners and other leaders and funders within the transfer reform space.”

The CTI grantees will complement one another but work separately and on unique approaches with a shared goal of improving transfer pathways for students. Collectively, these efforts have the ability to influence multiple aspects of transfer reform, including accountability, funding, data, and governance structures.

“The broken transfer pipeline has many holes that can and must be addressed. It hinders students’ pathway to degree completion, and greatly contributes to student debt and efficiencies in student aid,” said Sarah Belnick, senior program director of College Success at ECMC Foundation. “These issues are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and are especially detrimental for marginalized, low-income and first-generation students.”

The selected partners will focus on the following transfer reform projects:

Equity Transfer Initiative (AACC)

Expanding and/or establishing new equity-based transfer pathways between pairs of 2-year and 4-year institutions in partnership with Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Identifying Opportunities in the Transfer Policy and Practice Reform Space (ECS)

Developing a report on national transfer reform efforts and outcomes, and creating the framework for launching a National Transfer Network.

Say It, Fund It, Measure It: Advancing Transformational Redesign of Postsecondary Transfer (IHEP) Partnering with three states to declare commitments to transfer success, invest in students and institutions, and track outcomes in partnership with HCM Strategists.

Transfer Policy Standards for Equitable Attainment (SHEEO)

Helping four selected states to develop and adopt state- and system-wide transfer standards in partnership with the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education.

Interstate Passport® (WICHE)

Enrolling 20 new institutions into the Interstate Passport® Network, a national network of institutions and states that agree to accept block transfer of lower-division general education attainment (Passports) based on student learning outcomes, rather than on specific courses and credits, and to award Passports to their own students who achieve those general education learning outcomes.

Reactions from several grantees of the cohort include:

“We are proud to partner with ECMC Foundation and its principal partners on the Catalyzing Transfer Initiative. Community colleges are focused on closing equity gaps in attainment and transfer is a key part of this work to ensure that all students have a truly equitable pathway to completion and success.  AACC’s Equity Transfer Initiative will focus on intentional and meaningful ways to break down these barriers to transfer and provide a path to successful completion of two- and four-year degrees.  The Catalyzing Transfer Initiative will allow us to share this work and bring effective practices to scale across the country.  We will also benefit from the work of the partners which will further inform the implementation of programs and resources that yield measurable success for students.”

  • Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges

“Our nation’s economy and competitiveness depend on a postsecondary education system that is not only accessible and transferable, but also acknowledges the non-linear paths students take on the way to a certification or degree. Initiatives like this one are critical for scaling transition policies that ensure consistency and rigor across all credentials, shorten students’ time to completion and ultimately strengthen the workforce.”

  • Jeremy Anderson, President, Education Commission of the States

“This initiative will help states build and deliver on promises to students so that any student willing to do the work a degree requires can earn one. Put another way, we’re all about removing the red tape and making transfer a viable reality. This is an equity imperative: Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students and students from low-income backgrounds often begin their postsecondary careers at community colleges, so they are disproportionately impacted by feeble transfer policies. We want to help institutions and states do their part so that these students can do theirs.”

  • Mamie Voight, Senior Vice President of Research and Policy, Institute for Higher Education Policy

“The pandemic, state fiscal crises, and the heightened awareness of systemic racism within postsecondary education make SHEEO’s project on state transfer policy particularly salient. We are excited to partner with four states to develop standards for equity in transfer that other states can learn from in their efforts to improve postsecondary pathways.”

  • Christina Whitfield, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association

“Students deserve to know which postsecondary institutions and systems are reforming transfer and how those efforts will benefit them. The ECMC-funded transfer initiatives, including Interstate Passport, will shine a bright light on the campuses and states making progress in this regard. This knowledge will help students make more informed decisions about where they want to make their educational investments.”

  • Jere Mock, Vice President of Programs, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

“It is a crucial time for states and postsecondary institutions to focus on streamlining transfer. In the next year and beyond, thousands of students will transfer, or stop or drop out. They need our help now. The ECMC-funded initiatives respond to this challenge. Reforming transfer is a social imperative for our nation and will increase student success and academic completion, particularly for historically underserved student populations.”

  • Anna Galas, director, Academic Leadership Initiatives, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education


ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among underserved populations—through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas: College Success and Career Readiness; and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. Learn more about ECMC Foundation by visiting and ECMC Group by visiting

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