A college transfer often feels like a bait-and-switch to hopeful students, and that needs to be fixed.
Community college, for hundreds of thousands of students, is a stepping stone to university. They advertise themselves as a cheaper path to a degree, offering students all the basic requirements of their college education with much, much lower tuition than even state universities.
Ideally, students could take their General University Requirements in a community college, all the courses that are prerequisites to most majors. The 101s. There are even two-year degrees specifically aimed at meeting college transfer requirements. The community colleges are not really the problem.
The problem comes when the transfer student has been accepted into their university, and seeks to continue their educational path. They find that the university has higher standards for courses they have already taken, and won’t accept the credits. Or they have a cap on how many credits can be transferred.
“It just feels like a waste of time,” said Ricki Korba, 23, a transfer student at California State University. “I thought I was supposed to be going to a CSU and starting hard classes and doing a bunch of cool labs.” Between transfer fails and a credit cap, she’ll have to add a year to her studies in re-taking courses she’s already passed, at a cost of at least $20,000 in added tuition.
Among nearly 1 million students who started at a community college in 2016, just one in seven earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse.
One of the biggest obstacles is known as credit loss: when students take classes that never end up counting toward a degree. This is usually the result of poor advising; students in commodity college check with their professors or advisors that credit for a course will transfer, and it won’t. They try to do their researcher, but the college transfer process is so opaque it’s a gamble.