Horizontal or lateral transfer refers to transferring credits between two similar institutions from one college to another college (2 –year to a 2–year institution) or from one university to another university (4–year to a 4–year institution). Please keep in mind that transferring credits between two institutions with different type of control (public or private) and accreditation (regional or national) can be difficult.
Another set of issues emerge when trying to transfer between two universities or 4-year institutions because it entails getting two admission decisions. In other words, universities have a limited number of slots available for incoming students, transfer or otherwise. Therefore, transfer students need to apply for admission at the destination institution and once admitted they can start the credit transfer process. Transferring between colleges (2 –year institutions) is not that complicated since they have open door admission policies. Open door admission policy refers to the fact that anyone with a high school or GED diploma can get in if they apply.
Most importantly, a large portion of previously earned credits can be lost during lateral or horizontal transfer. One study showed that 68% of all students engaged in lateral transfer lost all their credits during the process. Students engaged in lateral transfer between colleges (2-year institutions) lost an average of 15 credits while students that transferred between universities (4-year institutions) lost approximately 11 credits (NCES, 2014).
Credit loss during transfer translates into significant costs, both in terms of financial and time resources. Loss of credits results to additional time spent in school, need for extra funds (loans/grants), loss of semesters of course work, delays in graduation, and delay the potential to earn full-time income. Any additional year spent in school after the 4-year mark leads to $50,000 foregone earnings (school expenses and inability to secure full-time employment).
Below are some strategies to help you avoid credit loss during college transfer
1. Check whether articulation or institutional transfer agreements exist between institutions. More details here.
2. Check the type of accreditation for the two institutions. More details here.
3. If possible try to transfer with a credential (associate, certificate).
4. Check the website of the destination institution for transfer requirements.
5. Contact an academic adviser at the destination institution early in the process to gain a better understanding of which courses are more likely to transfer.