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Education News

UConn Professors Have Discretion Over Rejecting Community College Credits

Matthias Rosenkranz
Creative Commons

The University of Connecticut is rejecting roughly a fifth of the eligible credits from students who transfer from community colleges, according to a recent study put out by a counselor at Gateway Community College.

Some these rejected credits happened because UConn’s professors can say whether a certain credit is acceptable. It's unclear what percentage of rejected credits are due to professor discretion because UConn is not required to track that data. 

The study, authored by John Mullane, estimates that UConn transfer students are spending an extra $3 million per semester because they have to re-take classes that were similar to ones already taken at community college.

Mullane said that this is particularly harmful to low-income students who are already struggling to get a bachelor’s degree.

“They’re using up financial aid dollars to do this, and it can be a huge cost," he said. "And it can drive a lot of them to drop out because they don’t have the money to continue.”

It’s a problem across the country, according to Davis Jenkins, a researcher at the Community College Research Center at the Teachers College of Columbia University.

“The biggest barrier to community college students who are seeking to transfer and get a bachelor’s degree is the inefficiency of the credit transfer process,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins added that the decisions professors make to determine whether a credit should transfer is often arbitrary.

“In Connecticut and other states there are statewide agreements about what can transfer and what not," he said. "The problem is, oftentimes, a university department will overrule that.”

UConn's Vice Provost Sally Reis said that sometimes community college courses aren't rigorous enough.

"If they don't have the same level of textbooks, the same level of challenge, if they don't cover enough courses -- the content actually just isn't there -- the students moving on just would not be able to do as well in follow-up courses," Reis said.

Jenkins suggested that this isn't always the case.

"We've talked to adjunct instructors who've taught at both two- and four-year institutions using the same books, so we know there's comparability," he said.

Community college students have some of  the highest graduation rates once they transfer to four-year schools. The National Student Clearinghouse found that community college transfer students who had an associate's degree were 16 percent more likely to earn a bachelor's than students who transferred without one. 

"If UConn doesn't think the community colleges are rigorous enough, well then the state should do something about that."<br><em>Sen. Chris Murphy</em>

Sen. Chris Murphy is trying to legislatively address the issue. He is scheduled to announce the details of his bill on Friday at the legislative office building in Hartford.

"I don't think there's really much [of an] excuse for a state college system not to accept credits from within its own system," said Murphy. "If UConn doesn't think the community colleges are rigorous enough, well then the state should do something about that."

Murphy said there is a "tremendous waste of money" at the state and federal level if so many credits don't transfer.

Listen to Murphy discuss his legislation in an interview on WNPR's Morning Edition:

Tucker Ives contributed to this report.

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