Image of a male professor standing next to a rock climbing wallImage of a male professor standing next to a rock climbing wall

Academic Passport

What Is The Academic Passport?

The Academic Passport is a program designed to promote a seamless transfer process for students currently attending Pennsylvania community colleges and the colleges and universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. If you meet the established eligibility criteria, you will be granted an Academic Passport, which will guarantee acceptance at a PASSHE institution - and ensure the transfer and acceptance of your course credits.

Why Does the Passport Exist?

Act 188, the enabling legislation for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, mandates that the system provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to students. Accessibility, openness, convenience and availability of a range of programs are long-standing objectives of all PASSHE institutions. To that end, in January 1998, the system's board of governors adopted a resolution to affirm an Academic Passport that allowed students to move freely between and among accredited public institutions of advanced learning, without unnecessary repetition of coursework that has already been successfully completed at another accredited school.

Strict guidelines and policies govern the Academic Passport. Although it was designed to assist the transfer of community college students who have already earned the Associate of Arts (AA) or the Associate of Science (AS) degree, the Academic Passport also benefits community college students who wish to transfer prior to receiving their associate degrees, and incumbent students of sate system universities with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher.

Underlying this policy is the belief that the competencies developed through general education are more important than individual courses. Recognition of the integrity and validity of the general education program at each sending institution results in the acceptance of a general education program, which is comparable, but may not be identical, to the general education program at the receiving institution.

If you're not sure whether or not you qualify for the Academic Passport, consult the questions below, or contact the Office of Articulation and Transfer Evaluation.

photo of student and admissions staff member interacting in a classroomFrequently Asked Questions About the Academic Passport

Who is eligible for the Academic Passport?

Graduates of Pennsylvania community colleges holding the Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree and incumbent students of state system universities who have completed 12 credits or more of college level work.

What is an associate degree?

Associate degrees indicate that the holder has developed proficiencies sufficient to prepare for upper division collegiate work or to enter directly into a specific occupation. Associate degrees are awarded only for completion of a coherent program of study designed for a specific purpose. They reflect satisfactory achievement of a minimum of 60 semester hours of credit, in two parts: a general education component, and an area of concentration or major component.

What is an Associate of Arts (AA) degree?

An Associate of Arts degree program is designed specifically for transfer into baccalaureate degree programs in the arts, humanities, social or behavioral science fields, or in professional fields based upon these disciplines. Recipients of the AA degree normally complete a minimum of 60 credit hours.

What is an Associate of Science (AS) degree?

An Associate of Science degree program is designed primarily for transfer into baccalaureate programs in one of the mathematical, biological or physical sciences, or into one of the professional fields with these fields as its base. The AS degree also normally requires the successful completion of 60 semester hours of study.

How many transfer students are there?

In the 1990s, more than 17,000 students transferred from a Pennsylvania community college to a system university. Annually, between 1,800 and 2,000 community college students transfer to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Approximately 500-600 students annually transfer from one system university to another.  At Cal U, approximately 40% of our undergraduate population has transferred from another accredited institution.

What are the eligibility criteria for the Academic Passport?

All students must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or greater. If you have an AA or AS degree, you must have completed a minimum of 30 hours of liberal arts course work.

What does the Academic Passport provide?

Academic Passport holders are guaranteed entry into any system university. Universities shall strive to apply credit towards graduation for all college parallel course work completed for the associate degree.

System universities will honor and accept credits earned at other universities.

Does the Academic Passport carry any special economic incentives for students?

No. However, system universities are encouraged to refund any application fees charged to Academic Passport students who enroll in their institution.

Does this mean that Academic Passport holders have an advantage over students who begin at the University as first-year students?

No, entry is guaranteed only to the University. Admission to a specific program or curriculum will be determined by the University based upon the same established criteria required of indigenous students.

There has been a lot of talk about whether student should be able to transfer course credits in courses where the grade of "D" is earned. How does the Academic Passport deal with this issue?

Passport students may transfer credits in courses where the grade of "D" is earned only if the student has an overall grade point average of 2.0 or higher from each institution attended.

So a student could start at one school, earn a "D" in three courses, transfer to a second school, earn a 2.3, and then seek to transfer all the courses to a system university?

No, the student must have a 2.0 GPA at each institution attended if he/she seeks to transfer credit for courses taken.

How are credits applied to graduation for students holding the Academic Passport?

First, the University will apply up to a maximum of 45 of the credits earned at the community college toward satisfying freshman and sophomore general education requirements. Of the course work remaining, the University will apply credit toward meeting the requirement of the student's chosen major, and lastly, remaining credits may be applied as electives.

What happens if a student changes majors or programs of study?

In certain circumstances, such as change of major, it may not be possible to apply all credits earned at the community college to the four-year degree. It is, however, the intent of this policy to make full and complete use of as many earned credits as possible.

The policy also covers community college students who transfer without the degree. Do these students have an Academic Passport?

No. However, students who seek to transfer without the degree may apply to and be accepted by system universities. A maximum of 45 credits in courses designated by and credited as general education by a community college may be applied to meet University lower division general education requirements. A course-by-course match will not be required.

Why are students ineligible for the Academic Passport included in the Policy?

More than 85% of all community college transfer students transfer to a system university prior to completing the two-year degree. An effective policy on articulation and transfer must address all transfer students, not just bachelor's degree holders.

What about credit earned in occupational, technical and vocational programs?

Generally, technical and occupational courses do not transfer. The emphasis of the Academic Passport is on liberal arts and general education. Under certain instances, some technical courses may transfer in particular programs. Students seeking credit for technical courses are urged to contact the university to determine the specifics for each degree program.

We hear a lot about dual enrollment programs and other articulation agreements. What relationship does the Academic Passport have to these arrangements?

The Academic Passport is intended to assist and enhance the transfer process, not to replace current agreements. It does not infringe upon or supersede any institutional-based understandings.

A number of universities have junior- and senior-year general education requirements. Will Academic Passport holders be exempt from these requirements?

No. Academic Passport holders may have earned credits applied to meeting lower division, freshman, sophomore and general education requirements, but not upper division requirements.

What is the rationale for requiring 12 credit hours of college level work for intra-system transfers and community college transfers without the degree?

In both instances, it was decided it is best to require the student to demonstrate the ability to successfully complete college level course work before seeking to transfer.

The policy indicates that Academic Passport holders transferring from a community college will have the same rights as system university juniors; what does this mean?

Many system universities require 128 hours for completion of the bachelor's degree with junior status attained upon the completion of 64 hours. The fall 1998 assessment of the Academic Passport found that on average, Academic Passport holders transferred 67 credit hours, clearly sufficient to warrant junior standing. The exact privileges accorded juniors are determined by each university.

There is much discussion today about core-to-core agreements in general education and things like a common course numbering system; what impact does the Academic Passport have on these issues?

The Academic Passport seeks to enhance transfer while recognizing institutional differences in academic curricula and requirements. In House Resolution 527, references were made to individual institutional-based articulation efforts that may produce core-to-core agreements or more fully developed program-to-program articulation agreements. Such a dialogue between individual system universities and community colleges is encouraged.