Study: UConn rejects nearly 25% of credits from community colleges

University of Connecticut campus at Storrs, Conn. (Photo: AP)

With its flagship university rejecting nearly a quarter of transfer credits from community college students, Connecticut lawmakers are considering legislation to create pathways for students that would guarantee core courses transfer to all public state universities.

The University of Connecticut (UConn) is turning down about 25 percent of community college transfer credits, with students losing 15 credits on average, according to a new study by John Mullane, a counselor at Gateway Community College in Connecticut. His previous study on the topic found that UConn rejected around 20 percent of credits, with students losing 12 credits on average.

The loss of credits is equivalent to losing an entire semester of credits, which costs transfer student about $7,866, according to Mullane’s study. That amounts to $3.3 million annually among all Connecticut community college students transferring to UConn.

“The more credits they lose, the less likely they are to complete their degree,” Mullane said last month in support of the bill before state lawmakers. “Making students retake similar classes actually hurts their chances of graduating.”

Greater success

Mullane’s analysis shows a wide range of accepted and rejected credits at UConn. While three community colleges have nearly 90 percent of their credits accepted, three other colleges have 35 percent of their credits rejected.

The study also showed that students who were able to successfully transfer 60 or more credits and obtain junior level standing had an 81 percent graduation rate at UConn. The graduation rate for students who lost credits and started in the lower division was around 62 percent.

SB 971 would require that all public state colleges work to develop pathways that would guarantee transfer of credit among the colleges.

Rep. Christie Carpino, a Republican who introduced the bill, said she is hopeful it will become law, as many lawmakers are hearing from families who support the legislation. It has already been passed by the state legislature’s higher education committee and awaits a full vote in the Senate.

“Transferring credits should be simple and straightforward,” she said, especially in a state system.

Current transfer efforts

Not everyone is on board with the proposal. Current programs already help students navigate what credits will transfer, according to UConn officials. They cited the university’s Guaranteed Admissions Program (GAP), which assures community college students’ admission if they have at least a 3.0 GPA and earn an associate degree in an approved academic program. Although it guarantees admission, GAP does not guarantee that all credits will transfer and apply to a student’s baccalaureate.

UConn also has a searchable website that allows students to see which credits would transfer. For example, it notes that online courses from laboratory sciences and foreign languages, including those in hybrid formats, don’t transfer.

This fall, 1,111 students transferred to UConn, of which 412 (37 percent) were from the state’s 12 community colleges, many enrolled in GAP, according to UConn.

Opponents of the bill also point to a new Transfer and Articulation Program crafted by community colleges and states universities. Mandated by state legislation, the program started this fall, but UConn is exempt from participating.

However, the program only guarantees full credit transfer if students complete the entire 60 credit pathway; students who transfer early can still lose many of their credits.

Supporters of SB 971 note that not having UConn on board with the agreement also presents a problem for community college students who perhaps initially intend to transfer to one state university but wind up going to another one, which may or not accept credits that the students already earned.

“A state-wide transfer credit system would allow students in a particular pathway to attend any community college in the state and ensure they can seamlessly transfer those credits to any of their public four year institutions and graduate on time, with less debt,” Mullane said.

Hampering independence?

Opponents of the bill also contend the legislation would take away colleges’ ability to develop their own programs to meet their missions, and it could put them at odds with their accreditors. The UConn Chapter of the American Association of University Professors said the bill “is a mandate to stifle innovation and competition.”

“A wonderful aspect of higher education in Connecticut is that the faculty at different institutions can help develop requirements that meet the specific interests and needs of different students,” a UConn associate professor of political science said in his testimony to legislators. “Such differentiation can even occur within institutions across degree programs, schools and colleges. The kind of one-size-fits-all approach envisioned by this bill is pedagogically unsound.”

Supporters, however, counter that other states already have successfully created seamless transfer systems, notably California, Florida and Washington. They add that allowing more core credits to transfer would increase not only enrollments at four-year institutions but also success rates.

Mullane used his college as an example. Gateway last year saw a nearly 10 percent increase of its credits accepted at UConn, which brought the total to nearly 90 percent of all credits. The increase also led to more Gateway students enrolling at UConn. Last year, 81 percent of Gateway students accepted to UConn enrolled, up from 57 percent the previous year.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki

is editor of Community College Daily.