The core argument of Friday’s post is that the unfair refusal of transfer credits by four-year universities is a burden on community college students, who are often low-income students and students of color. It went on to say that the persistence of this rejection is largely the result of the different incentives faced by the university as a whole, and in particular by individual departments. The university as a department benefits from seamless transfer, or at least from its appearance. However, individual departments are often unwilling to “give away” credits. There is a shadow between the president and the head of the department.
Most of the feedback is unanimous, which is gratifying. But critics also made some valuable points.
For example, one of my suggestions for combining departmental incentives with greater benefits is to base departmental budgets on graduates rather than FTE. In that case, what currently looks like “giving away” credits looks like a bet on students who might graduate. We know that the more credits that are rejected, the greater the damage to the graduation rate.
Some readers objected on the grounds that some departments are “service” departments and will be affected under such a system. For example, English and mathematics departments usually teach almost everyone, even if most people do not major in either.
This is a good point, although I think it may not be as attractive in the third or fourth year as it was in the previous two years. Distribution requirements are usually met within the first two years. But I should clarify that many universities divide the transfer decision into two parts: major and everything else. They sometimes accept all other content as a whole, but allow professional receiving departments to choose by themselves. In practice, students who transfer to a psychology major may not have any problems in obtaining recognition of English performance, but they may encounter obstacles in the research methods course. Statewide agreements sometimes write this distinction into the law, as we did in my state: for graduates, the overall transfer, but professional departments can be picky.
The proposed mechanism may be clumsy, and I certainly don’t like it, but it assumes that there is a difference between overall credits and professional credits.
A particularly critical reader pointed out that four-year public regional universities are actually competing with community colleges for admissions. In an environment where long-term demographic trends are negative, it is a daunting task to ask them to ignore their funding needs.
Of course, this is true; I think this is at least part of the reason behind the procrastination that we often encounter. But this is also a textbook case of the wrong category. Universities should serve students, not the other way around.
My Inside Higher Ed colleague John Warner responded that competition like this is destructive and is equivalent to the argument that federally funded higher education is a system. I admit that I didn’t connect the dots in that way, but he made a good argument. As he said in a Twitter post, “As a condition of obtaining federal funding for free tuition, four-year state universities will be required to accept all transfer credits from two-year universities in the state.” This will eliminate the incentive for schools to dig each other. , And help to align departmental incentives with institutional incentives and larger social goals. Of course, its premise is a regime other than the regime we currently live in, but this is the point; our current system rewards behavior at the expense of students. It shouldn’t.
Finally, a savvy reader pointed out that I have replaced Sinclair Lewis with Upton Sinclair. I have to admit this.
After receiving replies one after another, I am very clear that the core issue is structural and there is still a lot of work to be done. And I have the best and brightest readers around me. Thank you all for modeling thoughtful discourse.