Transfer Literacy: Assessing Informational Symmetries and Asymmetries

C. Arnold
Research reveals asymmetries between students’ (buyers’) perceptions of particular postsecondary education practices (ex. admissions, financial assistance and credit transfer) and institutions’ (sellers’) practices (Frenette & Robinson, 2011; Lang, 2004; Lenning and Cooper, 1978; Noel, 1976; Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, 2010; Pascarella, 1982). In economic terms, postsecondary education can be viewed as a market with asymmetric information (Spence, 1973). According to Michael Spence (1973), asymmetries exist when certain participants in the market do not possess the same sets of information that others in the market possess. Increasing literacy around institutional admissions procedures, program offerings, financial assistance/repayment and educational pathways is regularly the focus of governments, agencies and administrators in postsecondary education. However, striking a balance of information between buyers and sellers in this market can be challenging (Lang, 2004). Recent calls for reform have focused on improved student comprehension of the credit transfer process and the effective application of information (Andres, Qayyum & Dawson, 1997; Colleges Ontario, 2008; Constantineau, 2009; Junor & Usher, 2008; Kerr, McCloy & Liu, 2010; Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, 2011a, 2011b; Usher & Jarvey, 2013). National and international researchers have voiced concerns regarding students’ understanding of this process and the resulting impediments (repeated coursework, limited program and professional certification alignment, lack of financial assistance and increased time to graduation) (Canadian Federation of Students, 2010; Colleges Ontario, 2008; Davies & Casey, 1998; Loades, 2005; Moodie, 2004; Nyborg, 2007; Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, 2010). The omission of a literacy baseline in the credit transfer debate is striking and is the focus of this research...