Arizona State University is teaming up with Maricopa Community Colleges and utilizing blockchain to share academic records of transfer students to help determine when they have earned enough credits to be given an associate’s degree, even if they’re studying at the university.

This process is known as reverse transfer, can potentially open the door for students to receive a two-year degree even if they have not completed their bachelor’s degree.

Partnering up with Salesforce, ASU’s EdPlus wing is forming a student data network that will let colleges share and verify academic records using blockchain technology. Blockchain is an append-only, meaning you can only add data and not alter or delete it, transaction ledger.

This is one of the strategies identified by Achieve60AZ to increase the number of adults in Arizona who have a license, certificate, or degree. The goal is to reach 60% obtainment by 2030.

“Our estimate was that there were about a million working-age adults in Arizona who have a number of credits, maybe even enough to have an associate’s degree, but they have not filed for that degree or they changed schools, or other things,” Rich Nickel, president and CEO of College Success Arizona said. “Obviously a strategy to achieve our goal is to find out who those people are, how many credits they have from which institutions, and how we might cobble those together to award them an associate degree they’ve actually earned.”

What ASU wants to do with the reverse transfer program is to make the information “bi-directional,” which basically means that once the student transfers to ASU, the community college from whence they came will continue to receive feedback on their academic progress.

“A situation where a learner attends both a community college and a university and yet comes out with lots of credits and no credential is a terrible one.  It’s much harder to put on a resume that you have three years towards a degree, and far easier for an employer to see an associate and a micro-credential or stackable credential leading to a degree,” Donna Kidwell, Chief Technology Officer for EdPlus at Arizona State University said. “We’re trying to ensure that learners get not only the credit, but the credential, when they’ve done all the required work. We want to celebrate with them the fact that they’ve earned valuable credentials along the way, and do it in a trusted partnership with the other community colleges and universities”

Leaders at ASU started seeing a growing problem among transfer students who didn’t go on to finish their bachelor’s degrees and had not finished their associate’s degree before prior. Even if you are short by four or six credit hours, it’s tough to position yourself for a job that requires a degree.

Maricopa Community Colleges has been awarding associate’s degrees to some 900 students since 2015 through its own reverse transfer program. Without blockchain technology, the process can be time-consuming since each student’s record is reviewed manually. Bringing in blockchain helps to streamline the entire process and shuttle students along more quickly.

“A lot of these people have jobs thanks to a great job market, but there are several benefits to having an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree. We learned that about 99% of the new jobs created after the recession went to those who had a degree of some sort,” says Nickel. “Economically, if we can reach these degree goals we have, we’re not talking about adding hundreds of millions, but billions of dollars into our economy.”


This story was originally published at Chamber Business News.