• August 28, 2015

Despite Years of Credits, Still No Degree

Despite Years of Credits, Still No Degree 1

Geoffrey Moss for The Chronicle

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close Despite Years of Credits, Still No Degree 1

Geoffrey Moss for The Chronicle

How do you earn six years of college credit yet fail to acquire a four-year degree? Much to her consternation, Sharon Miller has spent more than a decade finding out. She's sure she's not the only one.

Sharon was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. She graduated from high school in 1998 and immediately enrolled at Cedarville College (now Cedarville University), in the southwest part of the state. She'd considered going right to work, but her father had failed to finish his degree many years before and didn't want his daughter making the same mistake. He insisted, as fathers do, and off she went.

Although Sharon's grades were good, when she went home during her sophomore year for Christmas in 1999, she still didn't know what she wanted to learn. The tuition at her private college seemed like a waste, so she dropped out and took a full-time job that soon turned into a paralegal position. But she couldn't shake her father's admonitions. She enrolled at the University of Akron, at night, while working full time.

Sharon eventually earned a two-year degree at Akron—not that she thought much of the experience. Everything she learned in class about being a paralegal she had already learned by actually being a paralegal. But she had felt vulnerable without the credential, so the reassurance had a kind of value in itself.

Six years passed. In 2008, Sharon found herself looking for a new job. She was well beyond clerical work in her skills and aspirations. She sent out 50 applications and got two interviews. It was obvious to her that, without a bachelor's degree, she had reached the end of the economic line. She enrolled at nearby Kent State University. It was a familiar predicament for the Millers—after years working for Chrysler, her father was told he needed a B.A. to qualify for a promotion. He had enrolled at Kent State, too.

Sharon didn't expect to be at Kent State long—she had three semesters at Cedarville under her belt, plus the degree from Akron. That seemed awfully close to four years.

But the process of transferring those credits to Kent State quickly turned into a maze. In theory there were advisers to help. But Sharon had a full-time job, and the advising office was open only during the day. She tried to go on her lunch hour, but they were closed for lunch. She sent e-mail messages and left voice mails but most were never returned.

So she took to analyzing her transcript on her own. It didn't make much sense. Some courses had been accepted for transfer, but many had not. She had taken several classes at Cedarville, a Baptist university, with the word "Christian" or "Bible" in the course name. None of those were accepted. Neither were the vast majority of credits from Akron. In total, she had earned 70 college credits—over two years' worth—that had disappeared as if they had never been.

As Sharon stared at the spreadsheet, her eyes fell on three courses she had taken at Akron that Kent State had classified as 300-level, or upper-division. Kent State required graduates to earn at least 42 upper-division credits. But it wasn't counting those three Akron courses toward her total. The problem, it seems, was that Akron had given them a 200-level designation. Sharon asked why Kent State's designation wasn't good enough for Kent State, and was shuffled from office to office until she eventually found herself sitting nervously across a desk from a dean. She had spent weeks preparing a portfolio of course materials and syllabi to justify why she deserved credit. The dean didn't give them a glance. It's state policy, he said; there was nothing he could do.

Sharon returned home and pulled up the Ohio Board of Regents Web site on her computer. It was not state policy. "A receiving university may determine that a community or technical college course is equivalent in nature and content to an upper division university course," it said. Kent State was allowed to accept the credits—it just didn't want to.

Kent State wouldn't accept credits that it deemed upper-division as upper-division because someone else had deemed them lower-division. But it was perfectly willing to give Sharon three upper-division credits for a "Writing Seminar" that consisted of writing press releases for a church camp. And it promised her 15 upper-division credits for spending a semester interning at a research organization in Washington. The organization is not an accredited college or university. Nobody from Kent State has ever contacted it to ask anything about who works there or what, exactly, Sharon Miller is doing. I know this because the think tank employs me as its policy director. Kent State appears to have no problem letting Sharon write tuition checks for credit when the experience in question involves little or no cost or work on the part of Kent State.

Bad news continued to trickle in. Six months after enrolling, the advising office notified her that one of her old courses would count for a social-sciences distribution requirement. She had already taken a Kent State course for that requirement. Three more credits down the drain. But Sharon forged ahead and packed for her D.C. internship thinking she would finally earn her diploma in August 2010.

But the day before she left, a new wrinkle developed. Kent State requires students getting an arts-and-science degree to become moderately proficient in a foreign language. Sharon took Spanish I and hated it—the instruction was low-level and poor. She has a gift for language and scored in the 99th percentile on the English ACT. So she withdrew from Spanish II and decided to learn it on her own and test out of the foreign-language requirement. She scheduled an appointment at the testing center, which promptly informed her that, having withdrawn from Spanish II, she was no longer allowed to test out. This came as news to Sharon. And her adviser. And her Spanish teacher, who had told Sharon that testing out was perfectly fine.

Now Sharon has to take Spanish II, III, and IV, consecutively, over the next three semesters. Because the job market doesn't pay much for people without college credentials, Sharon has to take out student loans. But you can't take out a government loan for one course per semester. So Sharon will pick up a minor in political science, and earn another 22 credits above the 175 she already has. It will cost her thousands of dollars and delay graduation by a year, all so she can learn enough Spanish to order dinner or read a middle-school textbook in Guadalajara, neither of which she wants to do.

Some people see stories like Sharon's as an example of credentialism run amok, evidence that too many people are going to college. But the problem isn't that Sharon didn't need to learn anything after leaving high school. She did, and she needed the credentials to prove it. The problem is that our postsecondary system is phenomenally wasteful, inflexible, and inefficient in the way it awards and exchanges higher-education currency (credits) and turns that currency into assets (degrees).

In a better world, Sharon would be able to turn credits into credentials through a combination of course-taking and test-taking centered on verifiable evidence of what she has actually learned, not how long she was taught.

Unfortunately, many of the for-profit businesses that specialize in awarding credit for learning that happens outside of colleges courses seem to advertise via e-mail messages that end up in your spam filter alongside pitches for "male enhancement." The traditional nonprofit institutions that award socially acceptable credit, by contrast, are in the business of selling college courses for large and growing amounts of money. What's missing are public-minded organizations that have the credibility and financial incentives to award credit based on rigorous standards of evidence.

Accreditation ought to help. Yet Cedarville, Akron, and Kent State are all fully approved by the same regional accreditor, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and still Sharon will end up exchanging more than six years of credit for a four-year degree. She will not be refunded the difference.

More than half of college students earn credit from multiple institutions. As students' learning options continue to diversify, that number will surely grow. Given the huge amount of public and private money being spent on getting students into college, and the growing urgency of helping more earn degrees, reducing vast credit wastage should be a top priority.

Yet incredibly, no definitive study of this problem has ever been conducted. Congress required such research in 1998, but the U.S. Department of Education has yet to follow through. Quantifying the problem would be a welcome first step in helping Sharon's long and frustrating journey become a thing of the past.

In the meantime, she'd like to start a nonprofit advocacy group for fellow students. "I know there are thousands of students like me," she says, "and there is nowhere else for them to go."

Kevin Carey is policy director of Education Sector, an independent think tank in Washington.


1. lawman11 - April 12, 2010 at 05:23 am

The young lady went to three different institutions, in each one studying a different program. Why all or nearly all the credits from one would not transfer to another doesn't surprise me at all, in that I think it sufficiently logical and predictable. Might be a different story if she had studied the same major at each location. Further, the alternative is actually for practical purposes an 'automatic' acceptance of credit--this exists in certain countries and merely results in a spiral to the bottom in terms of quality.

2. alanc - April 12, 2010 at 06:43 am

She (and others in similar situations) should check out Thomas Edison State College* (www.tesc.edu), a fully-accredited public institution in NJ that specializes in helping people turn credit hours into degrees. They're great people with a great mission. They're an especially big help to those serving in the military, who can't rely on staying in one place to finish their degrees.

*While it lasts, anyway. The state's governor has proposed merging the college with Rutgers, where its specialized mission would almost certainly die of neglect.

3. okieinexile - April 12, 2010 at 07:43 am

I deal with students like her every day because I direct our university's General Studies program. In that program we can minimize the red-tape and cut it from time to time.

One of the issues I frequently see is that students change their minds because what they love doesn't (in their minds) make them employable and the programs that make them employable are not enjoyable to them. Then there are just the ones who cannot make up their minds. The general studies degree is a place where we can help these folks put a bow on their university experience.

4. fizxdude - April 12, 2010 at 08:07 am

This is another one of Kevin's so-called crises in higher education. I have no sympathy for her or her self-inflicted plight. I attended four institutions in three different states as an undergrad, so it can be done. Friends and colleagues of mine have successfully completed their degrees under worse conditions.

The reality of the situation is that Sharon floated around to multiple institutions in a haphazard manner. Her poor planning and lack of focus do not constitute an disturbing trend in higher education.

The more disturbing trend is the fact there are schools out there who will take her random credits and roll them all together into a McDegree.

5. tdr75 - April 12, 2010 at 08:52 am

Kevin spends the article answering the question he asked in line one. She is a textbook case... 240 credits of haphazard coursework doesn't equal a degree if there is no cohesive program.

Now, I do sympathize with the credit-transfer issue... this can be ridiculous and it shouldn't have to be, ESPECIALLY with three schools accredited by the same organization. Kent State should be ashamed. If it is this hard for a motivated student to maneuver through the system, how easy is it for a non-motivated student to drop out?

6. nordicexpat - April 12, 2010 at 09:03 am

It actually is an interesting problem. On the one hand, I can certainly see the logic that your credit should be based on what you know, not necessarily on where you took your course. On the other, we all know that where one gets one's degree counts for a whole awful lot (look at all the debates about affirmative action, both those for and those against. Would those debates be so heated if everyone believed that it's what you know and not where you went to school that counts?). When a student graduates, he or she will say that the degree is from X. Could a university survive if students began taking almost all of the courses from a cheaper institution and then transfer at the last minute so that their final degree would be from a more prestigious one?

That being said, Carey's presentation seems like something out of Dickens: poor innocent student against an incompetent and uncaring university administration. As others have noted, the student has made a lot of bad decisions, and somehow I think the administrators and teachers might have a different story if asked what had happened.

7. smadams - April 12, 2010 at 09:43 am

She should also check out Charter Oak State College www.charteroak.edu, a regionally accredited state college in Connecticut that was designed for students just like her. Charter Oak recognizes credits in transfer from regionally accredited institutions; awards credit for standardized examinations and military experience; allows students to earn credit for college equivalent learning through its portfolio process; and allows for up to 90 credits from a community college.

8. jffoster - April 12, 2010 at 09:46 am

"...She has a gift for language and scored in the 99th percentile on the English ACT. So she withdrew from Spanish II ..."

A 'gift for language?" As shown by a high score on the ACT in English, her native language? Come on , Mr. Carey!

Mistake 1 was in going to expensive private little college when she had no idea "what she wanted to learn" AND did not seem particularly to value the general experience of college and a college atmosphere.

But she does seem to have gotten a bit of a run-around at Kent State, in competetion to some extent with Akron, close by. (Ohio has too many state universities.)

However, colleges classify course levels for a reason, sometimes several reasons. In general one doesn't want people getting a degree with almost all Freshman-Sophomore level courses, and colleges awarding a degree have good substantial reasons for insisting that a significant number of credits, including the later ones, be taken from that college.

9. cwinton - April 12, 2010 at 10:20 am

Accreditation from the same agency does not means courses equate across institutions. Even within the same state system, schools develop curricula that can vary significantly within disciplines. The institution that awards the degree has to control the content of what went into it to protect its reputation, which is why schools limit transfer credits, thus avoiding the scenario nordicexpat (#6) paints. I do not want the institution I graduated from diluting the reputation of its degree programs by accepting more than tightly limited credits for "life work" or miscellaneous courses taken elsewhere or from "testing out". While the scenario painted for Kent State may reflect some policy confusion in need of attention, it does not indicate anything fundamentally flawed in how institutions deal with students wishing to obtain credit for courses they have taken elsewhere.

10. rentedname - April 12, 2010 at 10:52 am

Rather than play the blame game for this train wreck, I will focus on the underling problem, the solution for which might help students like this as well as the institutions seeking to serve them. The problem is one of measurement scaling coupled with advising. We need to be able to scale student expertise both in general and in reference to the particular fields that one can study. A transcript should focus on the student's presumed general and field-specific levels of expertise rather than the history of courses completed. Transcripts should be outcome-focused. The validity of a given transcript's assessment of student's expertise should generalize across all institutions. What institutions of higher education should sell to students are specific methods for advancing their levels of expertise in general or through specific fields. This may involve coursework, packed in traditional courses, but it might involve other approaches as well. Advisors should help students to select methods (including courses) that advance expertise as quickly and efficiently as possible within those strands of expertise in which the student is interested. Where degrees are awarded at all, they should merely describe conditions where a student has achieved some level of expertise across a given set of areas of study.

11. unusedusername - April 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

"her eyes fell on three courses she had taken at Akron that Kent State had classified as 300-level, or upper-division...The problem, it seems, was that Akron had given them a 200-level designation."

This is a total racket. 4-year colleges do this all the time, mostly to screw over community colleges. 4-year colleges often define courses usually taken by majors in the Sophomore year as "upper level" so that they don't have to accept the course taken at a community college. This is almost always done for money. Private colleges should be able to act as they choose, but an accredited state college should have to accept the credits of another accredited state college from the same state.

12. charlesr - April 12, 2010 at 11:51 am

I am in a state university system where, by law, we have to accept transfer credit from in state community colleges. Many of the courses that the students transfer in are prerequisites for more advanced courses. The students who took the prerequisites at the community colleges are much less prepared despite what their transcripts say. As a result, many have to repeat the upper level courses

I wish we did not have to automatically accept this transfer credit.

13. robkagan - April 12, 2010 at 12:56 pm

One of my top students at a state community college was a 40 something working mom. She went part-time at night for 6 years in order to earn her Associates degree. After, she transferred to our state's flagship university, still taking one or two courses each term at night.

After her 4th year there, while meeting with her advisor to register, she was informed that she was now subject to "The 10 Year Rule." Asking what this was, she was told they would not apply credits earned more than 10 years in the past towards a degree. Quickly realizing she would never get out she transferred to a private university where she earned her Bachelors and Masters.

Why do make it so difficult?

14. jamescrowder - April 12, 2010 at 01:11 pm

So students who transfer from community college into baccalaureate institutions are underprepared? This assertion is flawed. Many studies have shown that there is no significant difference in the GPAs of community college transfer students and the GPAs of "native" students. I teach at a community college, and we have data showing that our graduating students perform *better* than the "native" students at the baccalaureate-degree granting schools to whic they transfer.

15. nordicexpat - April 12, 2010 at 03:16 pm

I still think the major question that is being danced around here is simply, "how much credit should be earned from the institution that grants the degree?" I think it is a fair that, say, lower division courses but not upper division courses have to be completed at the degree-granting institution. But if people want to make more credit transferable, how much will they allow: 75% of the degree? 95% of the degree?

The problem that I have with these types of discussions about granting credit based upon "verifiable evidence of what a student has learned" is that they are almost always followed by statement such as this: "all so she can learn enough Spanish to order dinner or read a middle-school textbook in Guadalajara, neither of which she wants to do." Surely whether she "wants" to obtain a certain level of proficiency in a foreign language is not at issue. It's whether she have that level of profiency (as ffoster #8 points out, no matter how well you do in English is not verifiable evidence of your "gift for language"). It doesn't sound like she has that level of proficiency, so why should she get a degree, no matter how much credit she can accumulated over the years? (and maybe everyone gave her the wrong advice, or maybe not. This article seems to blame everybody but the student).

What I am about to say is probably a horrible idea, but it sounds to me like we might need a college equivalent of the GED . . .

16. arrive2__net - April 12, 2010 at 03:50 pm

Since the article can't describe the grades earned in the classes, it is especially tough to say whether they should be transferred or not. Colleges are usually not willing to transfer in lower grades, and that would be especially true if the academic standards of the transferred-in institution are unknown. Colleges truly expect transferred-in credit to come from the truly equivalent class, especially if they are required classes. Community colleges often have "articulation agreements" with 4-year institutions, that specify what classes can transfer and under what terms. Normally upper-division classes have higher expectations, which may translate into writing papers instead of taking multiple-choice exams, or other factors, such as grading done with the assumption that the student has two years of school already and therefore should be expected to perform on a higher level. So lower division courses may not be the true equivalent of the upper division courses. Regionally accredited colleges that are flexible about accepting credits earned elsewhere include Charter Oaks and Thomas Edison, as mentioned above, also private and regionally accredited is Excelsior University which is also known for accepting credits from other institutions and providing testing-out of classes. Regionally accredited Western Governors University was founded with the ideas of counting competencies towards earning degrees, rather than credits, so that school might be worth checking into for students in a similar situation. Bernard Schuster, Arrive2.net

17. 11274135 - April 12, 2010 at 03:55 pm

Actually thousands of students transfer credits from one institution to another every yearwith little or no difficulty. What Kevin seems to identify as a crisis is actually one student's nightmare. And, of course there are some others like her, especially among those who have complex academic histories often representing many changes in direction and goals. A number of people above have mentioned places like Charter Oak, Edison, and Empire State--accredited public colleges that specialize in amalgamating disparate credits and working out a reasonable and brief course of study that will allow a student to complete a degree--usually in something like "liberal studies" or "general studies"--and get on with their lives. Many other institutions have general degrees designed specifically for helping students like Sharon complete a degree. And still other places have empowered someone in the admissions system to optimize the student's transfer work and work out a clear and efficient route to graduation. Other students like Sharon have the good fortune to meet a non-literal-minded person in the admissions and registrar's system who knows how to find the spirit of college regulation in the letter.

While this may be Sharon's crisis, it is not a a general higher ed crisis, It's not as if no one has been working on it. And students have responsibilities as well. Almost all of the solutions to problems like Sharon's wind up in a general degree of some sort. If a student has built up a lot of credits around an English major and then wants a degree in Nursing, the institution can only have so much flexibility. If a student has simply been taking courses at random rather than following some sort of curriculum (say, a general ed curriculum at least)it is very hard to find much shape in a transcript of that sort.

Sharon is caught in an interesting bind. To university folks, she appears to want a degree, any degree, as a qualification for a better job.. The university folks think of a degree as representing learning derived from completing a structured academic experience. Trying to find a way to accommodate these these conflicting views (each true on its own way), is a hard problem.

The Chronicle might do a greater service to higher education by passing over these isolated "crisis" cases and taking a close look current state of stransfer, the challenges of transfer, and the actions that various institutions have taken to make it work well. There are some really creative things going on in an effort to preserve institutioal autonomy and controll of curriclum while making it possible and convenient for students to move between and among institutions.

18. jffoster - April 14, 2010 at 08:10 am

Carey may see it as a crises so it can become another excuse to commodify higher education and deprofessionalize the professoriate and Fordize (enFordate?) the "industry".

19. trainer12 - April 15, 2010 at 09:06 am

I know that some community colleges have articulation agreements with public and private universities and colleges. Does the same thing exist between 4 year colleges and universities? I have worked with lots of "late bloomers" who have come in with lots of transcripts, CLEP and AP test scores of 3 and 4, lots of certificates, training certificates and self study. Unfortunately, these "non-traditional students" are not always served well by traditional university and college institutions, whether they are public or private. Preparation and compotence should be the bottom line, regardless of the type of student. How often do we hear about business leaders complaining about recent college graduates not able to write or speak well or don't have the right knowledge or skills when entering the workplace? Clearly reform needs to happen for both traditional and non-traditional students in the curriculum and policies for better learning outcomes in higher education.

20. astoriakatie - April 15, 2010 at 09:16 am

As a professional who works with transfer students, I think the central question here is not did the credits transfer but did they transfer as directly equivalent to classes at Kent State? As Sharon attended three different institutions accredited by the same accrediting body, all the credits that she earned would transfer but they would not transfer as directly equivalent. It seems a little ridiculous to expect that classes taken at another (accredited) college or university would be exactly the same to those of a wholly different institution. Curricula varies from institution to institution which is part of what makes the higher education system in the United States so great. Namely, the diversity of the types of education that can be provided. Why should a university accept direct equivalency for a class that it doesn't offer and that that student would never have been able to take if they had started at and only attended the institution they are transferring to? For example, the courses with "Bible" or "Christian" in them would not transfer because Kent State, as a public institution, is not able to offer religious classes of that nature (part of the Constitution). If Sharon had begun her education at Kent State, she could not have taken classes such as this. This could also be the same case with the classes that she took at Akron as well.

Unfortunately, as many commenters mentioned above, situations such as this may sometimes be typical for those students who "swirl", especially for those students who change their academic programs as quickly as they change schools.

21. phikaw - April 15, 2010 at 11:03 am

While Sharon's situation does seem frustrating and unfortunate, the article is one-sided and unbalanced. First, it provides no perspective from the institutional side (as one of the previous comments noted) and second, it takes a wholly uncritical perspective on the student's decisions and choices. Students have to take some responsbility for their education, for example, knowing what the requirements are. Surely a student who transfers to an institution expecting to earn a degree should have the responsibility of checking the bulletin to see what the degree requirements are (e.g., that there might be a foreign language requirement). They should not be merely passive recipients of instructions from advisors. That said, there are no doubt complications in the matter of transfer credits that could be handled much better than they were in Sharon's particular case. And I would agree that the issue of transfer students in general needs to be addressed by institutions in a systematic and sensitive manner, especially if the community college push continues (as is highly probable). But, really, to take a single case or two (and in such a one-sided manner) and then conclude that there is a nationwide problem -- oversimplified in its characterization -- of epic proportions is just not a fair analysis.

22. juicho - April 15, 2010 at 02:09 pm

The sad part of the problem is that Kent State University under Ohio law as an institution under the auspice of the Ohio Board of Regents IS REQUIRED to accept ALL of her Associate degree from the University of Akron. If I were her, I would raise a legal challenge against the school. Kent State is playing a dirty little game that is all to frequent in higher education - BIG BUCKS BIG BUCKS BIG BUCKS!!! With the shrinking of state economies, state schools are feeling the pinch and are looking for "Creative" ways of generating revenue.

The upsetting part is that all Ohio state schools are NON-PROFIT institutions. How do these schools generate money from other sources like sports programs but still manage to have to raise the cost of tuition and fees so exorbitantly every year? Could it be overpaid sports staff? Too much emphasis placed on generating revenue rather than actually educating students? Would it be more logical to abolish the "well-rounded" education and actually streamline curricula to teach people the material pertinent to the real world?

Really, did Western Civilization in freshman year prep me for the workforce? Or did Psychology, Theater, Softball, and all of the other University Requirements I had to fulfill at Miami University (OH) that sucked up valuable dollars from my wallet? But to earn that coveted BA I had to have Political Science, a foreign language, and hosts of other classes when I was a MICROBIOLOGY major!!! Higher education is a racket as much as the next "business." We have lost our way in truly educating people in the name of "higher education"! Trade schools and community colleges are a better deal dollar for dollar in the real world market. You go to learn what you need to do your future job and get on with life.

I am all for lifelong learning because information doubles itself in two years versus all the knowledge that had been learned by mankind since the beginning of our existence. I think that "educators" need to go back and read the great tale of "The Sabertooth Curriculum" and rethink what we teach, how we teach, and why we teach.

Good luck to all those out there who are trying to transfer credits from school to school. Also, look on online. There are many databases that show what classes will transfer from one to school to another both intrastate and interstate. Many articulation agreements exist between schools. A little "homework" on the student's part gain pay off well.

By the way, what makes Harvard's freshman English better than Podunk Community College's freshman English? There are only so many fundamentals that can be taught. Wake up people.

23. juicho - April 15, 2010 at 02:15 pm

@astoriakatie -- Oh contrare. Many public schools in Ohio teach religious courses and ARE NOT prohibited from doing so under "separation of church and state." The federal guideline you cite says that the USA cannot establish a formal, national religion. Miami University teaches courses on "Problems with God and Morals" and other religious courses. The law mandates that public schools cannot teach only one religion's courses but can so long as they teach courses on other religions.

24. juicho - April 15, 2010 at 02:23 pm

I advise any student with a large amount of credit and having no degree to consult with one of three schools: Thomas Edison State College (as mentioned), Charter Oak State College (as mentioned), and Excelsior College in New York. All three schools are regionally accredited state schools that use capitalize on helping students build a degree out a seemingly endless assortment of courses taken with no hope for use in a degree.

Charter Oak State College
55 Paul J. Manafort Drive
New Britain, CT 06053
(860) 832-3800

Excelsior College
7 Columbia Circle
Albany, NY 12203-5159
(888) 647-2388

Thomas Edison State College
101 West State Street
Tenton, NJ 08608-1176
(609) 984-1180

25. nordicexpat - April 15, 2010 at 03:16 pm

"@astoriakatie -- Oh contrare. Many public schools in Ohio teach religious courses and ARE NOT prohibited from doing so under "separation of church and state."

Including Kent State.

26. azprof - April 15, 2010 at 04:47 pm

I'm a bit taken back by the all the comments that think this is all OK and strictly the student's fault. Professors don't really care whether students have to repeat courses, they think that only their course is good enough. I witnessed one professor that required a student to come back 6 months later to take their course (only needed 1 course to graduate), that was only offer once a year, they could have subsituted another course but didn't care yet always took pride in how students liked him. Until the upper administration can somehow make the academic units accountable this will not end. This is only the tip of the iceberg with more and more students drifting to on-line courses. The professors at public universities that make this mess won't be around as enrollment drops, so what do they care. As state support goes down the tuition differential will become less and less and the private universities will step in to pick up the slack. Public Universities = Financial Institutions (they both didn't see it coming).

27. webmizah - April 18, 2010 at 01:55 pm

<Comment removed by moderator>

28. kymac - April 18, 2010 at 03:17 pm

"So students who transfer from community college into baccalaureate institutions are underprepared? ... Many studies have shown that there is no significant difference in the GPAs of community college transfer students and the GPAs of 'native' students."

I also teach at community college and have repeatedly been told to inflate my students' grades. To begin with the coursework is not as challenging as what they would get at a 4-year school, but the majority of my students still find it to be "too much" and "too difficult" they do not study (by their own admittance they study

29. multicoastal - April 20, 2010 at 01:02 pm

I was in a similar situation - 8 years of college credit and nowhere near fulfilling any college's requirements for a degree. (My credits were from four universities in three countries in four different majors.) I ended up completing my degree through Skidmore's University Without Walls program, which helped me organize the credits I had into a coherent major. I then did another year with them, mostly by correspondence, wrote a senior thesis, had a good experience and got into a good graduate school. Unfortunately that program is being phased out, but I understand there are others like it.

30. bsigmon - April 20, 2010 at 01:29 pm

As someone dealing with the same situation I can certainly feel her pain. I am in the process of putting all mine together to try and finally get the BS that I need to keep my job. When I started this 10 years ago it seemed so simple, but work full time, school part time and degree requirments always changing it has become the nighmare Sharon has gone through. I think it is the Department of Education that needs to look at the problem.

31. s_schaffter - April 24, 2010 at 03:00 pm

I agree with many others: this is her fault, and not the fault of the educational facilities. She took a lot of courses, but was in no clearly defined program. She changed schools many times, and expected that somehow the courses from one school applied one-to-one to another school.

If she wants to get a degree, she must play by the rules of the school from which she gets her degree. After all, the school is stating to the world, "She has completed our course of study, and we are giving her this diploma to prove it". It wouldn't be fair to have someone complete four years of college at the University of East Nowhere, then take one course at Ivy League University and expect to get a diplome from Ivy League simple because that was the last school that they attended.

One of the underlying questions is this: do we really want to create a system where all colleges and universities offer identical classes and programs, so it doesn't matter where you go? Isn't that one of the attractive features of higher education, the ability to have unique programs? If we want to have true compatability, then every school, every professor, needs to teach identical courses.

I have enough upper division credits accumulated in various fields that I could get another Bachelor's degree on top of the one I already have. Should I be allowed to get another degree just because I have a lot of extra units lying around? The answer to that should be a loud "No!" from everyone, but that is in essence what we are asking to allow.

32. jungianscholar - April 24, 2010 at 07:19 pm

It is no wonder that Sharon is extremely frustrated at this point in her learning process. Many schools, as mentioned by others, under the guise of "mandates from the accrediting organization or state board of regents," refuse transfer credits from different schools or refuse to adopt a program as used successfully by the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst, MA, where the undergraduate students may participate in a portfolio program that creates a joint process between the faculty and students to provide students with legitimate credits for real world work experience or research. The Union Institute and University, out of Cincinnati, Ohio, also provide a similar program. This concept was originally an outcome from a Ford Foundation study back in the 1960's.

Not only are many schools very parochial about transfer of credit from other schools, but also within various schools within the institution. There is no reason that schools can't provide an office to look at these issues. Often, for example, Organizational Behavior may have a BUS for business class designation, but also a PSY for fulfillment of a psychology requirement.

Blaming any earnest student doesn't help the school, the student or our nation. Fundamental reform to address this issue needs to include:

1.) Outstanding admissions and on-going student counseling including use of assessments and other tools to help students find and maintain their passion - including looking at occupational realities and alternatives for careers using their chosen major.

2.) Creation of a flexible program to accept credits from other institutions and an evaluative mechanism to go beyond the course "label." Also the awareness of flexibility in where a given course may fulfill a major requirement or elective

3.) Ditto for above within the school or institution itself

Also, while many readers think that the status of an Ivy or First Quadrant Research Institute is a direct correlate to success later in life, had best read Dr. George E. Vaillant's longitudinal study of Harvard male graduates over more than five decades. Among his findings were that a great many of the privileged graduates failed to find what we usually recognize as "success in our culture,"
it is important to remember that a great number of children of the wealthy and privileged graduate from the Ivy League schools, so rather than attribute their success in life to their attendance at the Ivies, they go home to run the family business or take over the family medical practice.

For higher education, excellent professors who are grounded in theory and practice, and who can actually teach in an engaging manner, may be found in all community colleges, colleges and universities, regardless of their "status."

Kent State needs to hang their collective heads in shame for what they have done to Sharon and possibly thousands of other students over the years. Colleges and universities espouse that they are institutions of higher learning, not factories. They need to start acting like it, and work collaboratively for the student.

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