Legislation to make college credits count

June 9, 2017

The state’s public universities won’t be compelled to accept one more community college credit than they do now under a bill that passed both houses of the legislature this week.

It will however shine a bigger spotlight on which credits the University of Connecticut and the four state universities accept and which they reject along with what becomes of those students.

The new reporting requirement alone should improve the lot of transfer students, according to John Mullane, a counselor at Gateway Community College in New Haven.

“This will increase transparency,” said Mullane. “If signed and enforced should go on a long way to help our students reduce the time and cost of a bachelors degree.”

The final language of that legislation is under review by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his staff, a spokesman said.

State Rep. Pam Staneski, R-Milford, a lead Republican on the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, called the new bill a start.

It would require the state’s public universities to publish links to transfer agreements on the state’s Office of Higher Education website and starting in January 2018 submit annual reports to the state on transfer credits accepted and rejected along with the graduation rate of transfer students.

UConn already does some reporting and has a Guaranteed Admissions Program that assures community college students admission with a certain grade point average and an associates degree in approved academic programs.

Until now, the state universities — Western, Southern, Central and Eastern — have not had to report transfer statistics but do have a relatively new Transfer Ticket program that allows students who earn an associate degree at one of the state’s 12 community college to seamlessly transfer to Central, Eastern, Southern, or Western to complete a bachelor’s in their major without loss of credit.

What there should be, Staneski said, is a way for community college credits to count at all colleges doing business in the state, public or private.

Ultimately, she wants to lessen, if not eliminate the chance that students pay twice by having to retake a course.

“But we needed to take one bite. Get this on the books ... to expose gaps and changes that need to be made,” Staneski said.

The bill also mandates that incoming community college students be educated about the variety of transfer programs available.

Mullane, who has studied what happens to community college graduates who leave credits behind said UConn rejects nearly 25 percent of the transfer credits from community college students.

On average last year, community college students transferring to UConn lost 15 college credits, equivalent to a full semester or $7,866 in educational debt.

Mullane has not been able to do similar studies at the four other public universities in the state because until now the law has not required them to keep track and report.

Mullane expects the transfer loss for them will turn out to be similar.

“Transfer students are an important part of UConn, and the new legislation is consistent with our goals of ensuring them access and affordability,” Stephanie Reitz, a UConn spokeswoman said..

UConn, she added, looks forward to working with the Connecticut State College and University system to continue strengthening and streamlining the transfer process system.

During a public hearing on a stronger version of the bill, other UConn officials called the measure “pedagogically unsound.”

“A wonderful aspect of higher education in Connecticut is that the faculty at different institutions can develop requirements that meet the specific interests and needs of different students,” Michael E. Morrell, a UConn political science professor testified. A one-size-fits all approach could undermine that work, he argued.

“That’s baloney,” Staneski said. “If a community college course isn’t good enough come down and help them to make the rigor happen ... We all should be playing in the same sandbox in the state of Connecticut and stop make students pay double for courses.”