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NASH Improvement Science Efforts Yield Promising Results for Reducing Barriers to Student Transfer

July 13, 2023

For Immediate Release: July 13th, 2023

Chicago – The National Association of System Heads (NASH) has released test results from its first NASH Improvement Community (NIC), paving the way for colleges and universities to improve outcomes for students transferring between colleges. 

NASH has committed to advancing prosperity for the nation by 2030 by increasing degree completion, improving social mobility, and reducing student debt. It will do this through a novel approach for higher education that seeds new and innovative ideas, tests improvement interventions, and scales solutions to the country’s 65 university systems – potentially impacting more than 75 percent of America’s 4-year college students.

“Higher education has always been a beacon of science and metrics, but rarely have we applied those approaches to our own improvement – until now,” said Nancy Zimpher, interim executive director of NASH. “The NASH Improvement Communities borrow and adapt effective approaches from our peer industries like health care and are leveraging them to solve some of the most persistent challenges that face colleges and universities in serving our students.”

The first cohort to participate in a NIC focused on testing solutions around student transfer and encompassed four systems – Texas A&M University System, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, University of Illinois System, and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. The ten participating campuses from these systems collectively serve over 620,000 students. Major learnings from the conclusion of this cohort included:

  • Deepening partnerships between sender and receiver colleges led to a 53% increase in transfer student rates
  • Improving the process of course articulation led to awarding 456 students over 2,400 credits, which immediately reduced time to degree completion
  • Enhancing student data sharing between community colleges and 4-year institutions led to a 300% increase in potential transfer students for 4-year campuses to engage with

Today, at a gathering hosted by the University of Illinois System in Chicago, NASH launched a second cohort which will join the ongoing work of the first and aims to build on these transfer successes. These promise to be models that can be taken to scale to overhaul the transfer process for students nationwide.

The second cohort of the NIC on transfer will create actionable plans in 45 day implementation sprints that ensure tangible, measurable progress. This expansion of the transfer-focused work will double in size, including Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, Arkansas State Universities, University of Wisconsin System, and California State University System, covering 62 campuses and 883,902 students. Together, these systems hope to address roadblocks in the student transfer process, such as:

  • Developing faster and more efficient admissions and advising processes
  • Revamping data handoff for transferring students
  • Strengthening partnerships between community colleges and four year institutions

NASH’s Institute for Systems Innovation & Improvement launched the NIC initiative in 2022, applying improvement science methodology to address major issues in higher education such as transfer, curricular flexibility, equity gaps, and more. 

To date, 11 systems comprising 32 system/campus teams, have participated in the three NICs, collectively representing 132 campuses and approximately 1.2 million students. The NASH Improvement Model, which provides a brief overview of the NIC model, was recently highlighted by Inside Higher Ed

The success of the first NICs paves the way for future system transformations. NASH’s NICs offer an invaluable platform for campus teams to collaborate, learn from each other, and develop effective strategies to improve the value of a college degree. To learn more about the NIC process, visit us here.

About the National Association of System Heads

Founded in 1979, the National Association of System Heads (NASH) represents chief executives of the 65 public higher education systems in the United States. Member institutions work collaboratively to advance innovation and change in public systems of colleges and universities. To learn more about NASH and its national initiative, the Power of Systems, visit


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