Nearly 91 percent of students transferring within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system experienced no loss of credits toward their degree, according to a study released today.
In presenting the study findings to the Board of Trustees, John Asmussen, the system’s internal auditor who conducted the study, said: “Credit transfer is not broken. It needs fine tuning, but it’s not broken. We are transferring credits in large numbers.”
The Board of Trustees directed Asmussen to conduct the study after students and legislators raised concerns. Increasing numbers of students have been transferring within the system in recent years. In 2008, for example, 504,000 course credits were transferred within the system, up 66 percent since 1999.
The auditor’s study also found that 1,533, or 9.4 percent, of the 16,309 transfer students lost an average of six credits, which may have cost them additional time and money to complete their studies. Six additional credits would cost an estimated $1,080.
One transfer problem – data entry errors that may have caused about 2 percent of the 2009 students to lose credits – had been resolved because the system began using electronic transcripts about five months ago, Asmussen said.
“This study gives us the first definitive analysis of issues relating to transfer,” said Chancellor James H. McCormick. “We can now focus on the things that we need to fix to make sure that credits transfer appropriately and smoothly. It’s heartening that this survey documents that transfer works for nearly all students.”
The analysis included the results of a survey conducted by the Minnesota State College Student Association and the Minnesota State University Student Association. The student survey found that 40 percent of respondents reported that they did not seek advice from college or university staff, and 41 percent said they did not start planning for transfer until their last semester or later.
Shannah Moore Mulvihill, director of university and system relations for the university student association, said: “There does seem to be a, disconnect between the way credits transfer and the way students expect them to transfer. It is our hope that better advising and information will help ensure that students’ expectations more accurately align with reality.” Students in the survey also reported that transferring credits usually goes more smoothly if planning begins early, she said.
Jessica Medearis, director of public affairs for the state college student group, said, “We urge the board to monitor transfer data and to continue to simplify the process.”
Various tools to assist students in transferring have been in place for some years now. A list of transfer specialists at each state college and university is available at www.mntransfer.org. And Course Equivalency Guides are available so students can see which courses will transfer and create a transfer plan.
Appeals processes also are in place at each college and university and at the system level for students who think they were unfairly denied credit. The survey found that two-thirds of survey respondents whose credits did not transfer as they expected also said they did not know they could appeal. However, 89 percent of those students who did appeal had some or all of their credits accepted.
The student associations and Asmussen recommended several ways to improve transfer, which system officials will study. Also, a Smart Transfer Toolkit will be introduced this fall to help smooth the transfer process, said Linda Baer, senior vice chancellor of academic and student affairs.
In a related matter, the Board of Trustees revised its transfer policy to help assure that students have access to accurate information about transfer course equivalencies and the appeal process. The revised transfer policy requires each college and university to post courses outlines on their Web sites and on the www.MnTransfer.org Web site and to accept credits from another system institution with no additional documentation if a course has an equivalent listed at the receiving college or university in the system’s electronic Degree Audit and Reporting System.
In addition, the 32 colleges and universities now must make their institutional transfer policies and information about course equivalencies readily available on their Web sites and the Mntransfer.org Web site. Under the revised policy, students also will receive information routinely about how to appeal if they are dissatisfied with a credit transfer evaluation.
Some programs and degrees, for example, are not designed for transfer, so some courses may not count toward program or graduation requirements at the student’s new institution. Accreditation standards for certain programs or institutions also may limit credit transfer.
Students who change fields of study when they transfer also should expect that some credits will not transfer or meet their new program requirements. This is particularly true when transferring between technical colleges and state universities because program and graduation requirements are so different.
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system comprises 32 state universities and community and technical colleges serving the higher education needs of Minnesota. The system serves about 260,000 students per year in credit-based courses and an additional 164,000 students in non-credit courses.