Bills could increase class credits for transfer students

If passed, legislation in the state senate could give transfer students more credits to take from community college when they enroll at universities in the state.

Area higher education leaders are looking at Senate Bills 59 and 3804, which both attempt to alter the way students transfer from one institution to another. While the writing of the bills state they are aimed at enhancing the transfer process, the possibility of universities having to accept more classes from community colleges than they already do has caused concern among some college and university administrators.

The text of SB3804 states it is aimed at ensuring community college students are informed about the courses they are taking and if they will transfer to a four-year institution, but another part of the bill looks closer at decreasing a student’s time spent in college.

The most recently amended version of SB3804 includes a provision that a study will be conducted to show where improvements in the transfer system are needed to increase course transfer between colleges. The goal of the study, the bill states, is to find ways to reduce the time it takes a student to complete a degree.

Chancellor Rita Cheng said she volunteered SIUC to conduct the study.

Because SIUC receives the greatest number of transfer students of any university in the state, Cheng said any legislation that attempts to change the way courses are transferred affects the university.

“I think it’s really important that transfer students do have the ability to complete their degree on time, but that is a responsibility both of the community college and the four-year university to make sure that our course articulation and advisement helps the student make the right choices to ensure the smooth path,” she said.

Although SIUC is going to conduct the study whether the bill passes or not, Cheng said the university already has a flexible transfer policy and she doesn’t expect it will have very much impact.

Yet earlier versions of the bill suggested no matter what the credits or classes are, they should transfer from a community college to the university, Cheng said. The Illinois Articulation Initiative determines which courses a student can take to the university, unless a student graduates with an associate’s degree.

With an associate’s degree, they may be able to enter into a “2 + 2″ agreement, which SIU offers in some programs. It gives community college students the opportunity to get the bachelors degree in two years if they have completed two years of community college.

With the agreements, students are able to enter the university as a junior and graduate in 60 credit hours.

Allan Karnes, associate dean and professor in the school of accountancy and member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, said because not all programs and universities offer the “2 + 2″ agreements, the original writing of the bill would attempt to make every student able to transfer the courses they’ve taken and graduate in two years. But, he said, SIUC can’t do that because some programs do require more than the general education a transfer student might attain at a community college.

He said the university’s study is going to look at where the problems exist for students who couldn’t use all of their credits after transferring. He said the legislation, if passed, may be viewed as one step closer to permitting community colleges to offer 300 and 400-level courses.

Robert Mees, president of John A. Logan College, said SB59 tries to increase the transfer ability of students from one institution to another, similarly to SB3804.

He said if the student completes a minimum of 60 credit hours at community college, the bill requires the university to grant junior status to the student.

“A lot of times the credits aren’t accepted at the university,” Mees said. “This is trying to make the process state-wide that’s similar at institutions.”

Because some departments at universities handle transfers in different ways, the legislations would try to place uniformity in that process. He said there are some students who graduate from John A. Logan and don’t get all of their work accepted at a university. He said there are a lot of times when classes don’t get approved.

Mees said he doesn’t think the bills are going to pass because some universities are hesitant to support it, although he said he is not sure why.

Cheng said she also doesn’t know why universities may be hesitant to support the bills, except that the purpose of them may be clearer, because she said simply reevaluating the transfer process is too broad.

The fact that both bills are trying to enhance transfer-ability, Mees said, should make it desirable to universities.

“The more students that we can make that connection between a community college and a university is the way to go in the future, because they can get that locally, and they can get it at much less costs,” he said.

Mees said a university’s biggest class should be the juniors and seniors. If a university works very closely with community colleges, he said, they should be able to transfer a lot of students.

But one concern the legislation has raised is whether permitting more classes to transfer from community colleges is one step closer to allowing community colleges to offer higher-level courses.

“I think the universities sometimes don’t want any 300-level classes taught at community colleges,” Mees said.

According to Mees, some students may want to take junior and senior level classes before they finish an associates degree in order to stay ahead. But, he said, he has been unsuccessful in trying to get those course offered at John A. Logan.

“I’ve also tried to get 300-level class taught on our campus, because it makes that transfer ability easier if you can take the classes here at Logan, but we haven’t gotten that accomplished,” he said.

He said he would like to see SIUC classes taught at John A. Logan, and he said he has offered the space.

Cheng, however, said she disagrees that community college should be allowed to offer upper-level classes.

“I believe that it is not in the public’s best interest to create four-year college on community colleges,” she said. “We are a four-year institution and John A. Logan is a community college. It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars to have duplications.”

 

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