JEFFERSON CITY -- A state law went into effect in August that will make it easier for Missouri college students to transfer between institutions.
The law 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 and 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."
Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said it will ease the transfer process by forming one series of agreements instead of the hundreds that currently exist. Pearce is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
"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. Pearce said that private institutions, although not obligated to participate, have asked to use the list as well.
Dr. Barbara Cohn, provost of 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.
Cohn said that ensuring the credits the university will have to accept from the library 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," Cohn 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."
Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, the law's sponsor said that 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 passed the state House with a 145-1 vote during the last legislative session. Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, was the only representative to vote against the law. 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."
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.
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.