You Can’t Get There From Here shouldn’t be the answer students get when they try to transfer credits — all their credits — to another college, writes Peter P. Smith of the American Enterprise Institute. These days, a majority of students transfer at least once. Some take the Sarah Palin route, “swirling” between community colleges and four-year universities.
Some $30 billion is wasted each year as transfer students repeat courses they’ve already taken, Smith writes. Forty million Americans are in the “some college” category: They’ve given up short of a credential.
A Gates Foundation study found that more than 50 percent of all annual higher-education spending in the United States, including financial aid, funds services for people who never receive a certificate or degree.
As president of the Community College of Vermont (CCV) in the 1970s, Smith had to fight to get state universities to accept graduates’ credits, which were based on “learning outcomes.” A deal was negotiated:
CCV graduates would be allowed to enroll and participate as juniors in the programs for which they had prepared. If they were successful academically, then CCV would work with the senior institution to create a better translation of our credits to the receiving college’s degree structure. If our graduates were not successful, then we would go back to the drawing board and redesign our program.
By requiring extra coursework, colleges exact a “transfer tax” on incoming students, Smith writes. They’d have to give up that revenue in a streamlined system.
Articulation agreements between community colleges systems and four-year institutions don’t improve transfer rates, a study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education found. Low-income and minority students have the hardest time navigating the academic bureaucracies.
We need a “systematic way of creating, maintaining, and displaying course equivalencies at the national level,” Smith writes. He envisions an academic EZ Pass.
First, there would have to be a consistent commitment to standards that govern learning outcomes and their assessment, overseen by the accrediting agencies. Second, using recently developed software, institutions would agree to accept credit from courses successfully completed at other accredited colleges at full value, pending the student’s performance in the follow-on course.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has agreed to order a study of streamlining college transfers, reports the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.