Tuesday, June 02, 2015
Unbundling the Organization
Yes, by all means, let’s unbundle cable bills. But if we want better credit transfer policies, a certain kind of tighter bundling may actually be the answer.
Now it could be that this is true for "most colleges", but not the colleges that most students attend. I think the large ones are per credit although I have seen some large public universities that are switching to a flat rate to push the completion agenda.
And I would doubt the expertise of an "expert" who doesn't explain that credit transfer can be and is enforced at a state-wide level in some places that are not where he lives.
If there are obstacles to courses articulating, it might have to do with doubts about the rigor of the courses being brought in from a prior institution. More likely, though, it's about course content: coverage and skills. I imagine Physics 101 covers pretty much the same material everywhere, but the 2000-level English course called Literary Analysis gets taught a lot of different ways: some teach it as a boot camp in formal analysis, others as an introduction to literary theory, still others as a research methods course. (We're required to accept Literary Analysis credits from other institutions in the state due to articulation agreements, which Selingo apparently omits to discuss.) Other courses get even trickier: if student has taken a "British Literature to 1800" survey at a community college, but we break down coverage of British literature into five shorter periods from which students choose two or three, how do we count the transfer credits? Generally we work to accommodate students, but where such accommodations don't work out, it's a lot more complicated than "you have to take this course again because we want your money."
I've never heard faculty discuss protecting our credits or money in these discussions, not even in very coded ways. We discuss rigor and skills, and perhaps we think we teach those better than other places at times.
1. Almost all of the colleges and universities that I'm familiar with have students pay by the credit for part-time students (under 12 credits), and then have a flat-rate fee for full-time students (12-18 credits) that is mathematically the equivalent of paying for 12 credits (per credit rate x 12). I would assume the idea here is that full-time students get a discount because they can essentially take up to 6 credits for free. (If a student pays the full-time fee that is equivalent to paying for 12 credits and takes 15 credits, they are getting more credits per tuition dollar than a part-time student who takes 6 credits and pays for all 6.)
2. My CC has a unique variation of the "buy five, get one free deal". Students who are full-time in the fall semester get to attend the winter session for free. Likewise, students who are full-time in the spring semester get to attend the summer sessions for free. I believe that they can also use the combination to reach full-time status (e.g., someone who takes 9 credits in the fall and 6 in the winter can just pay the full-time student fee instead of two part-time per credit fees). In order for this to work, we bill students a combined fall/winter tuition and a combined spring/summer tuition; this had the added bonus of letting students use financial aid year-round because the aid the covers the spring tuition bill is actually really covering the tuition for both spring and summer.
If you haven't done so already, you might want to look at this article in IHE. This is about an instance of a "nothing special" regional university re-branding itself to stand out and survive, and it is getting some pushback internally, as you and I would both expect. Might be worth following to see how it turns out.
Shane's comment and Bardiac's followup reminded me that I've ALSO been responsible for recommending transfer credit at my CC. I'm mentioning it because more than once it has raised issues that Dean Reed might encounter. Sometimes we will get students whose Physics 101 class isn't the full equivalent of ours, but has covered the parts of 101 that are essential and used in 102. (There are various reasons for this, one of which is they come from a quarter term rather than semester system school.) In that case I will recommend an override of the pre-req so they can take our Physics 102, but only give them generic physical science credit for their course (so they don't lose the credit towards an AA). This isn't always popular, because they somehow think we are in the business of Credit Laundering. They don't understand that the next place they attend will NOT take our evaluation of that course as gospel. Every down the line looks at each source institution's classes separately.
And I know that Credit Laundering is what they think is going on, because we twice had someone ask us to approve a set of classes as Physics 101 and 102 credit. We gave them credit towards graduation (meeting the science requirement), but they were quite upset that we didn't launder them for the next school they wanted to attend. Sorry, but they wouldn't buy it even if we did.
But if your community college multi-variable calculus class doesn't cover line integrals, Green's Theorem, Stoke Theorem, the Divergence Theorem etc.? Not gonna fly. Sorry. You'll need to re-take that here and learn those topics.
I needed a certain number of credits in a major to take an AQ course, but the Registrar wouldn't accept that a course in Microprocessor Design had anything to do with computers, because it didn't have the word "computer" in the course description.
The Dean of the university I took my degree at offered to talk to her, but the Registrar wouldn't speak to him. The professors of the course I wanted to take offered to talk to her, and wrote me a letter stating that in their opinion my course was more than adequate, but she ignored them. The Acting Chairman of the faculty I was trying to take a course in tried to talk to her, but somehow she was never available. I tried to talk to her, but she wouldn't see me. Instead, I talked to a clerk, who stepped five feet into her office and repeated what I'd told her, then stepped five feet back to the counter and told me what I'd heard the Registrar tell him.
There's no way this was about the knowledge I had or didn't have, because I'd taught some courses at college that, if I'd taken them, would have been recognized as accepted prerequisites. But because I was only the instructor they didn't count. (And a letter from the Dean of the college where I taught wouldn't be accepted, and no she wouldn't talk to him either…)
So I had to take (and pay for) an extra course to get my qualification — a summer session of two full-time courses taken simultaneously.
Was this about money? I suspect it was more about control and petty authority, as I discovered that several of my classmates were in the same situation.
Could I have appealed? Yes, but appeals (during the summer) were judged by — oddly — the Registrar. Were there agreements between my old university and the the one I was taking the course at? Yes, but apparently this sort of thing wasn't that unusual. (In fact, my father remembered hearing about trouble years before, which makes me wonder if it was really just a petty official or an institutional mindset.)
This was at the largest university in Canada, so not some little place that wasn't used to students coming from other institutions…
by the way fascinating blog, been lurking here for a while. oh one other thing, if you have any influence please offer ideas on how to fix all the broken school websites out there. very few of them are usable see http://xkcd.com/773/