JEFFERSON CITY - A new state law may make it easier for Missouri students like Brad Jacobsen to transfer their credits to other public institutions in the state. Jacobsen lost seven credit hours when he transferred from St.Charles Community College to the University of Missouri-Columbia last year.
Jacobsen said the credits, which carry a price tag of $90 per credit hour for a student from St.Charles county, and $135 for a student who hails from elsewhere in-state, were classes he would not have taken if he knew they would not be applicable to a four-year degree later.
"I don't think any state school would have taken them [the credits]," he said. "It seemed like it was so the school could get more money out of it, they were blow-off type courses."
The law to help future students like Jacobsen went into effect in August. It requires the state Coordinating Board for Higher Education to create a core course list of at least 25 courses that are accepted at all of the state's public higher education institutions. The board and state public institutions must work together to develop the list by July 1, 2014.
Rusty Hollins, the assistant commissioner for the Department of Higher Education, said the list will help streamline course requirements. He said that the department will likely add more than the minimum of 25 courses required by the law.
"We will work with the institutions and primarily the faculty to identify courses that are effectively equivalent in terms of content and more importantly, student learning outcomes," Hollins said. "We have a lot of confidence that there are more than 25 courses out there."
Senate Education Committee Chair David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said it will ease the transfer process by forming one series of agreements instead of the hundreds that currently exist.
"Currently it's just a patchwork of different agreements amongst colleges," Pearce said.
Pearce said that there will not always be a corresponding course at another school for students who transfer. However, if a course is offered at both institutions and is included in the list, the credit will be transferable. Pearce said that it will shorten the time students are in school.
"We know that the longer students are in school the more likely they are to drop out, and the more debt they're gonna have," Pearce said. "That's what this law is designed to do. It's streamlined to make the transition from community college to four-year much quicker and much more seamless."
Pearce said the law would not change course requirements at four-year universities, such as Truman State University and Missouri University of Science and Technology, where students will still need to meet selective admission requirements.
The law passed the state House with a 145-1 vote during the last legislative session. .
Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, was the sole vote of opposition in either the House or the Senate. Kelly said politicians should not be regulating curriculum because universities can do it themselves.
"The reason I voted against it is that the legislature should not be in the business of regulating curriculum," Kelly said. "We don't know anything about it and even if we did our decision making in that area will always be political and not academic."
However, Glen Hahn Cope, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Missouri-St.Louis said that the University of Missouri System has already found more than 25 courses that appear to be acceptable among two-year and four-year schools. Cohn said that UMSL will test their courses against a UM System list. The UM System will send their list to other provosts and chief academic officers across the state.
Cope said that ensuring the credits the university will have to accept from the transfer list have similar learning outcomes as those at UMSL do.
"Chemistry 1 at the college level is probably the same at all public universities in Missouri," Cope said. "It looks like we will not have to do a lot of course development. The courses are already there we just have to make sure we each identify the right one that is the equivalent of the other."
Evelyn E. Jorgenson, president of Moberly Area Community College, said she does not think the law will necessitate a lot of change at community colleges and that preparing for it should be a relatively easy task. Jorgensen serves in the Higher Education Department's Committee on Transfer and Articulation (COTA), and said that much has already been in accomplished in Missouri in the last decade in developing transfer equivalencies.
"I think it [the law] does highlight the need for courses to transfer, and it makes it front and center for all colleges to realize that there are thousands and thousands of students that start at community colleges, and it is in the best interest of the students and the 4-year universities both that those courses are able to transfer," Jorgenson said. "The more that we can do to remove roadblocks and the more that we can do to make transfer a very smooth process the better it is going to be."
But Jacobsen said the transition from a community college to a university was not completely free of turbulence. Jacobsen said he recorded his lowest GPA of his college career in his first semester at Mizzou, as he adjusted to form the study skills and habits he said he found were needed to succeed at a university.
Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, the law's sponsor and the Chairman of the House Higher Education Committee said other states have passed similar legislation with success. Oklahoma has had a similar organization of compatible courses for ten years. It has expanded since its creation to include more than 800 courses, a spokesman from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education said.
The law also requires the state to develop a reverse transfer policy. Students transferring from two-year to four-year institutions will be granted associates degrees if they have completed the required hours. Higher education officials say that some students currently have the required hours for an associates, but a degree is not awarded if they transfer to another institution and do not complete a bachelors.
This part of the law means that Brad Jacobsen now has enough hours for an associates degree, with or without those seven hours he completed at St.Charles community college.