Harry Painter brings us the story of a privately funded activity to help college dropouts go back and receive a degree that may now have to fend of the federal government.

The Lumina Foundation, one of the sponsoring foundations, expects this program to result in 2,094 new associate degree recipients in North Carolina — even with only 15 of the state’s 58 community colleges and eight of the 16 UNC schools participating. Eventually, the plan is for all institutions to participate, at which point the number of new degrees is projected to reach 4,400 — but that also assumes that USA Funds will continue to provide financing.

To qualify for an associate degree through this process, a student must have completed at least 25 percent of his or her coursework at the community college. Kate Henz, the UNC General Administration’s associate vice president of academic policy, planning, and analysis, is optimistic about the program.

Henz told the Pope Center that more than 3,000 student records have been sent for evaluations to determine if they qualify for associate degrees, although she could not predict how many would receive them. A key aspect of the program is making students aware that they qualify, and many students are not aware that reverse transfer is an option.

“We’re setting up a process for the long term,” she said. UNC’s General Administration has even hired a director of reverse transfer, Michelle Blackwell.

So far, the only serious problem with reverse transfer occurred in Indiana. There, Indiana University and Ivy Tech Community College reached a stumbling block. Indiana officials were concerned that Ivy Tech would receive credit for graduating students who completed most of their degrees at the four-year school.

The project has caught the eye of two Democratic U.S. senators: North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Iowa’s Tom Harkin, who see it as a potential addition to the Higher Education Act, which is up for reauthorization this year. They have sponsored Senate Bill 2506, which would have the federal government provide tax-funded grants to “identify and reach out to students” that have earned a combination of community college and university credits.

It’s working! There’s no reason for government to get involved.