How might community colleges and four-year universities dramatically improve transfer and graduation rates by reframing the end-to-end experience from the student’s point-of-view?


Beginning in Fall 2017, the Education Design Lab, with funding from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation led an intensive Design Challenge to re-design the student transfer experience. Research shows that 80 percent of students who enroll in one of our nation’s community colleges every year express an intent to complete a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution. Yet, in the end, only 25 percent make the leap to a four-year school within five years, and only 17 percent complete a four-year degree within 6 years of transferring. The Lab spent the last year providing participating teams with access to subject matter experts, coaches and design specialists to help teams develop transformative, rather just incremental, solutions. Pilots will launch in 2019, with results tracked for the next six years.

  • Miami Dade College & Florida International University
  • Township High School District 211, William Rainey Harper College, & Northern Illinois University
  • Collin College & University of North Texas
  • Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) & George Mason University

Project Updates

Fall 2018
This fall teams are continuing to test and iterate their pilots. It became apparent that each institutional pair needed more time to fine-tune the various features of their pilot and are spending this fall working with faculty, staff, and students to gather additional information necessary for full implementation. Check out the al the Seamless Transfer Pathways Pilots below:

  • Team Florida
    The pilot: TRANSFERmation- A comprehensive and enhanced guided pathway intended to improve baccalaureate completion for the more than 8,000 Miami Dade College students interested in a STEM degree.
  • Team Illinois
    The pilot: Business Degree in 3- A streamlined High School through College to work pathway that leverages Illinois Power of 15 programs for students interested in completing a bachelor’s degree in one of NIU’s five different Business pathways.
    Business Degree in 3
  • Team Texas
    The pilot: Fast-Track Business degree- A supported degree path that streamlines business prerequisite courses for students with an AA/AS from Collin College.
    Fast-Track Business Degree
  • Team Virginia
    The pilot: Meet VANCE- a technology-enabled tool to enable advisors and faculty to support better students in their new ADVANCE program. VANCE supports students on their time with accurate, timely, responsive, and personalized information.
    Meet VANCE


Summer 2018
In May 2018 the Seamless Transfer Pathways cohorts convened at the University of North Texas to share their final concepts and finalize their pilots. Teams participated in several design activities throughout the two days. These activities provided each team with feedback from their cohort peers, as well as, selected subject matter experts who were on hand to push the institutions to think bigger and better for their students. The convening ended with each team selecting the first version of their pilot and sharing out the pilot to all in attendance. After the convening teams returned to their campuses and spent the summer creating work plans for implementation, as well as continued testing on the various features with their students.


January/February 2018: Gallery Walk & Ideation Sessions
Over the past few months, we’ve spent time collecting and reviewing information from campus teams, including interviews with students, faculty, staff, field observations, and surveys. At the Gallery Walk & Ideation sessions, participants will have an opportunity to explore and experience this information; for our challenge, participants will be able to move around the gallery to review critical elements synthesized from the research. They will develop this research into insights and themes, which will then be used to refine design criteria and help brainstorm ideas for concept development.


October 2017 Kick-Off Convening
The Lab kicked off the 1st Convening for the Seamless Transfer Pathways Design Challenge in October at George Mason University. Administrators and staff from all nine institutions participated in an intense two-day, interactive design engagement focused on what the Lab calls the “Understand” phase. During this session, team members worked together to parse out important data and information gaps to get a better understanding of the challenges students on their campus face and consider solution opportunities from the student perspective.

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An Inside Look

Forming a Pilot

Gallery Walk & Ideation

Design Challenge Kick-off

(CCRC, 2015)

The Odds are Stacked Against Students Transferring From Community Colleges

In the Media

Read Inside Higher Ed’s press coverage on the Seamless Transfer Pathways Design Challenge!

Education Design Lab Partners with Leading Credentialing Platform to Help Universities Close the 21st Century Skills Gap

Education Design Lab, a nonprofit that applies design thinking to create new pathways from education to employment, announced the launch of a new partnership with Credly that will designate participating colleges and universities as authorized issuers of nationally-designed digital credentials that recognize workforce-relevant skills.

Education Design Lab in the News

Who says the news slows down in August? Between the Lab’s partnership with Credly, announcement of the #TeeUpTheSkills cohort, and recent UNCF convening, we’ve been having a stand out week in the press.

Meet VANCE: How two institutions are addressing low bachelor’s completion rates for transfer students

For Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and George Mason University, the past year has been a collaborative push to address one question: How might community colleges and four-year universities dramatically improve transfer and baccalaureate attainment rates by reframing the end-to-end experience from the student’s point-of-view? A year long design process to better understand the transfer student experience has culminated in a pilot, named Vance.

Read about our other challenges