A recent study
shows that one out of every ten community college students lose nearly all of their credits upon transferring to a four-year institution. In fact, just 58 percent of students who being their studies at a two-year institution report having more than 90 percent of their credits transferring to a baccalaureate program at a four-year college or university. As a result, a large number of students who dream of obtaining an undergraduate degree never get one because the credits they worked so hard to obtain do not count at their new school.
An Uphill Battle
Students who begin their post-secondary education at a community college are already less likely to graduate
with a bachelor’s degree than their peers who begin study at a four-year institution. This is not to say that community colleges are somehow failing their students, rather, it is most likely life events that curtail a student’s educational aspirations. Family issues, financial difficulties, or changes in job or childcare availability are just a few common issues that force community college students to put their studies on hold. Unfortunately, the already narrow likelihood that a student will get a bachelor’s degree is further diminished when they take a break from school to attend to life’s pressing issues.
Even when students are able to stick with it and collect enough credits to transfer, they often discover that many of their credits will not be counted at their new school. This can be a problem for in-state transfers, but is a particularly troublesome issue for out-of-state transfers. With nearly half of all undergraduate students
in the United States beginning their education at a community college, this difficulty in transferring credits to a four-year institution is a very significant problem. While credits may transfer as electives, oftentimes coursework completed at a community college will not count towards the specific requirements of a degree program.
For example, a student who has earned 12 credit hours of coursework in psychology may be able to transfer those credits to satisfy general education or elective requirements, but they very well may not count towards the required credit hours in the study of psychology. As a result, a transfer student would have to retake those 12 credit hours at their new school. For many students, the decision to attend a community college is one borne out of financial need. Therefore, when hard-earned credits do not transfer, students are faced with repeating courses they have already satisfactorily completed. As the financial burden of retaking these classes increases, some students choose to call it quits instead.
States Step In
Many state governments, including Wyoming, California, Rhode Island, Delaware and Washington, have passed legislation to help facilitate the transfer process between community colleges and in-state universities. In Wyoming, the Higher Education Course Transfer Guide
and Statewide Course Catalogue lists institutional and departmental articulation agreements that specifically outline which community college courses will transfer, and what degree requirements those courses will fulfill at the University of Wyoming, the state’s only public four-year university. Providing this information for students and school personnel helps avoid a situation in which a community college student earns a number of credits that will not transfer.
In California, which has the largest community college system in the country, students can check how their credits will transfer between public institutions online. The ASSIST website
allows students to select their current college or the college to which they will transfer, and examine the articulation agreements of that school based upon their intended major. Additionally, all community colleges in California specify which courses will transfer
to one of the state’s public university systems. These specifications are made for classes that will transfer as general or elective credits, as well as those that will transfer for program or degree-specific requirements.
Ensuring Your Credits Transfer
Nothing is as demoralizing as working hard to earn college credits only to learn that many – if not all – of them will not count toward a higher degree. To avoid this situation, it is imperative that you take advantage of state systems that seek to make the articulation and transfer processes more transparent. However, not all states offer programs such as those discussed above. As a result, seeking the guidance of a college counselor or academic advisor is strongly encouraged. College personnel will have an excellent working knowledge of agreements between your current school and other schools in the region, and can help you devise a plan for getting the most credits out of your community college experience.
Additionally, it is a good rule of thumb to request a transfer credit evaluation from the school to which you intend to transfer. These evaluations are often carried out by the Office of Admissions and provide a point-by-point analysis of how your credits will apply toward your intended undergraduate degree program. Taking advantage of available tools such as these and seeking the help of knowledgeable school personnel can help you avoid the headache of losing valuable time, money and hard-earned college credits.