Politics & Government

Sen. Kay Hagan’s bill helps students claim 2-year degrees

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan introduced a bill Thursday that would help students who don’t finish four-year degrees claim associate degrees if they’ve earned enough credit.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would expand on an approach known as reverse transfers, which North Carolina and other states are testing. It’s designed to benefit students who start at community colleges, transfer to four-year universities and leave before receiving a degree from either one.

Often their combined credits meet the requirements for an associate degree, but “they’re left with nothing to show for their hard work,” said Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat.

Reverse transfer programs encourage universities to send academic records to community colleges, which award the associate’s degrees if the student has met requirements. The two-year degrees open the door to job opportunities that aren’t available to people with only a high school diploma.

Hagan’s bill would authorize incentives for reverse transfer programs. If approved, it would become part of the Higher Education Act, with the amount of money set by the Appropriations Committee.

North Carolina’s two-year pilot program, which ends this year, is funded by grants from private foundations. The goal is to award approximately 2,000 associate degrees, Hagan said. Her plan would make federal incentives available from 2015 to 2017.

Hagan, a first-term senator, faces Republican Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg County, the state House speaker, in this year’s election.