Ricki Korba, a chemistry and music major, experienced this firsthand when most of her previous classes were rejected by California State University, Bakersfield. The university deemed her science classes less rigorous and exceeded the transfer credit cap. Consequently, she must retake courses, adding a year and $20,000 to her studies. Similar stories are common, with just one in seven students earning a bachelor's degree within six years after starting at a community college, according to the Associated Press,
The credit loss problem arises from inadequate advising and varying rules for evaluating transfer credits at four-year colleges. The result is prolonged degree completion, increased tuition expenses, and a high dropout rate. Unfortunately, existing efforts to address the issue have had limited success. Although some states have established partnerships and common class numbering systems to enhance transferability, problems persist.
A recent study within the City University of New York system revealed that nearly half of community college transfer students experienced credit loss, losing almost a full semester's worth of credits on average. Minority and low-income students are disproportionately affected. Poor communication and biases among faculty contribute to credit denials, usually driven by financial incentives.
While some colleges automatically accept credits from community colleges, others demand stricter standards, leading to frustration and financial burden for students like Korba. The responsibility lies with both community colleges and universities to improve the transfer process. Maryland imposed a rule requiring acceptance of classes sharing 70% of learning objectives with comparable courses, with explanations for credit denials. California passed laws guaranteeing admission to California State University campuses through special associate degrees and mandating acceptance of specified general education classes.
Virginia's Advance program offers direct pathways from community colleges to bachelor's degrees, providing students with clarity from the start. This model, currently used between Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University, aims to minimize credit loss and increase graduation rates. Other states can learn from these examples to ensure smoother transfers for students.
Credit loss remains a significant obstacle for transfer students. Clear guidelines, standardized evaluations, and collaboration between community colleges and universities are essential to address the issue. By implementing effective measures, students can navigate the transfer process more successfully, reducing credit loss and improving graduation rates.
Noumaan Faiz, (he/him) is a journalist and entertainer from Hayward, CA who covers culture and entertainment.
Edited by Nykeya Woods