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2012 January 23 - 12:00 am

POV: Alternative Options Can Smooth Transfer Path

Julie Bilz
David (not a real student) wants to go into teaching. He decides he is going to attend a community college to ease into the college climate because he has been out of school for many years. He contacts his local community college and makes an appointment with an advisor. As he sits down with his advisor, he is asked what four-year university he wants to attend. David has no idea at this point. His advisor tells him he needs to know where he wants to transfer because his program and courses will be based on the four-year institution he wants to attend. David asks about his choices. The advisor pulls out 25 transfer agreements for David to view. David also needs to know what age group he wants to teach because his decision will affect his program. David is unsure. He goes ahead and registers for classes based on what he thinks he might want to do not knowing whether all his credits will transfer.

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This scenario is typical for education majors. Early childhood, elementary, and secondary pathways all have varying requirements, depending on the receiving four-year institution. This situation can be complicated for students and advisors.

Easing the transition from the community college to the four-year setting has been a challenge. However, some colleges are developing initiatives to address this issue. For example, in 2010, the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act (SB 1440) was signed into legislation to promote collaboration between California community colleges and the California State University system. Students who complete their associate degree at a community college are guaranteed admission into the California State University System.

New York Community Colleges (CUNY) also proposed a common core framework to be established to make transfers easier for students. This 30-credit common core, known as the Pathways Project, includes seven credits in English, four credits in mathematical and quantitative reasoning, four credits in physical/life sciences, and five 3-credit liberal arts courses from choices such as world cultures, creative expression, diversity and individuals and society. Some professors at the university have voiced concerns about the Pathways Project lowering academic rigor, according to The New York Times. The general education credit requirements vary widely among the universities in New York, ranging from 45-60 credit hours.

Currently, Ivy Tech Community College is developing a general education core (CORE) to incorporate into all articulation agreements. Traditionally, each program at Ivy Tech has several articulation agreements, especially in education and liberal arts areas. About 23 elementary, 19 secondary, and 13 early childhood education articulation agreements exist. Students entering the education program must decide the four-year transfer college early or risk taking more classes or not enough classes. The requirements for each of these transfer agreements may vary widely depending on the transfer college’s requirements.

The CORE was developed around the Association of American Colleges and University’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) Essential Learning Outcomes. The hope is that four-year partners will match their general education requirements with Ivy Tech’s general education requirements. CORE is not meant to meet the entire general education curriculum of each four-year university, but to give students general education competencies matching all public four-year universities. Ivy Tech is taking the lead by presenting the CORE to four-year universities and asking them to match up their general education offerings. Traditionally, community colleges have matched general education requirements to four-year universities. Even then, transfers were not guaranteed.

At this point, Ivy Tech’s proposed CORE is composed of: three credits in composition; three credits in communication; three to four credits in mathematics; six to eight credits in life/physical science; six credits in social/behavioral science; six credits in humanities; three to four credits in multicultural awareness; one to two credits in student success; and one to two credits in a capstone course.

The total core transfer library consists of 30 to 34 credits and specific classes are determined by the student and the advisor. Specific programs can then add program-specific and transfer courses to their AS degree. The total credits for the AS degree should be around 60 to 63 credits.

In the elementary education program, students will take the 30- to 34-credit CORE and then supplement their AS degree with more general education credits and some foundational teaching classes to transfer to their four-year universities. In this way, all students from education, liberal arts, agriculture, early childhood, and other programs (excluding accreditation programs requiring specific courses) can make choices from a specific list of classes. This change will make it easier for most elementary education transfers, as long as the four-year universities accept the CORE.

The CORE will make transfers easier for students if four-year institutions agree to it. In this current climate of decreasing enrollment for traditional universities, community colleges are being successful in creating alternative transfer options, such as the CORE, CUNY’s Pathways Project, and California’s transfer programs. The new CORE agreement allows David time to think about which four-year college he wants to attend and makes the choice of classes less complicated. As a result, David may be more likely to complete his AS degree and move onto a four-year college.

It’s YOUR TURN  CCW wants  to hear from you!
Q: What is your community college doing to ease the transfer process for education students?
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