Transfer students start getting more of the credits they have already earned

The cost of a college education continues to rise so many of your students will consider attending a junior/community college for a year or two before transferring to a four-year school. One of the issues with this is that some of the credits invariably don’t transfer so the time and money spent taking those particular classes in wasted. In the past, it has been difficult to determine which credits will transfer.

According to a recent report from The Hechinger Report this may be changing due to lower enrollment and political pressure. After decades of demands that this be fixed, a new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that students who transfer among colleges and universities still lose more than 40 percent of the credits they’ve already earned and paid for. Even some of the credits that are accepted don’t apply toward students’ majors.

This increases the amount of time it takes to get degrees, compounding costs and debt. Many students simply drop out. And instead of narrowing, the scale of the problem has widened. Thirty-seven percent of students today transfer at least once in their college careers, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks this; of those, nearly half change schools more than once.

Now there are signs that colleges and universities are slowly lowering the barriers for transfer students, as much from their own self interest as the students’.

An enrollment slump is forcing private institutions to reconsider transfer students as a way to fill seats. So is new competition from community colleges in some states and regions that have been made tuition-free; those schools are seen as sources of potential transfer candidates for bachelor’s degrees.

More than two-thirds of four-year university and college admissions officers said in a survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling that transfer students had become “significantly important” in meeting enrollment goals.

Meanwhile, fed up with waiting, growing numbers of governors and legislators have ordered public colleges and universities to do a better job of helping transfer students, in some cases threatening their budgets if they don’t.

Connecticut lawmakers, for example, have imposed a requirement that public universities and colleges disclose in advance which transfer credits they will and won’t accept; this followed a finding that community college students who transferred to the University of Connecticut were losing a quarter of their credits.

The Texas legislature also has ordered improvements in the transfer process; two out of five students in Texas lose all their credits when they transfer, wasting $58 million a year on top of $57 million Texas taxpayers spend on excess credits, according to the Greater Texas Foundation.

And Minnesota’s legislature has ordered that the transfer process be made more efficient for the nearly 20,000 students who move among that state’s community colleges and public universities.

In all, about three-quarters of states have adopted some sort of policy to make transfer easier among community colleges and public universities, with varying success, the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, found.

Still, those policies apply only within states or systems, while nearly one in five community-college and a quarter of public university students who transfer move across state lines, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

That complication has given rise to something called the Interstate Passport, which lets students who have mastered agreed-upon “learning outcomes” transfer among participating institutions in nine states — Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — without having to re-take general-education courses.

Community college students are a huge potential market for bachelor’s degree-granting institutions struggling for applicants. Eighty-one percent of them say, when they begin school, that they hope to ultimately earn at least a bachelor’s degree, the U.S. Department of Education found. But only 13 percent do, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Among the reasons is what the Campaign for College Opportunity calls the “transfer maze” that forces community college students to waste time and money earning credits they can’t use. The advocacy group estimates that a California student starting at a community college who does manage to transfer to a four-year university and get a bachelor’s degree pays $38,000 more for it than a student who starts as a freshman at the four-year school, forced to take the same courses again and again.

Here is a link to the Hechinger Reports comprehensive story: