McClendon: Texas Should Adopt a Standard Policy for Transfer of College Credits

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Note: Hundreds of bills have already been pre-filed for the upcoming Legislative Session, so the next round of fighting for the future of Texas has already begun. Having already filed six bills, Democratic State Representative Ruth Jones McClendon, from San Antonio, is especially pushing her House Bill 82, a bill to adopt a standard policy for college credit transfers. Below is her op-ed.

I want to thank the Editorial Board of the Express-News for the Editorial published on November 21st, calling for a standardized, statewide approach to the transfer of higher education course credits.   I could not agree more with your summary of the current problem and the need for a solution:  “Texas high schools, community colleges and public four-year universities have operated in a vacuum for too long. . . .  If Texas is truly serious about providing low-cost options in higher education, the work needs to start with ensuring students are not wasting their time and money taking courses that don't transfer. ”  The good news is, the call has been answered.

On November 12, I pre-filed House Bill 82, which provides for public institutions of higher education in this state to adopt a single common course numbering system. The development of this Bill was several months in the making, and I am grateful to have had excellent help from important and highly-credible experts in the field.  Representatives from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Alamo Colleges, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas State University, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and Austin Community College participated thoughtfully, and collaborated with each other and with me in this effort.  Starting last spring, we met many times, exploring the issues and examining potential solutions, until we reached a consensus.  It may not be easy, but it will be well worth the effort to undertake the implementation of a single common course numbering system.

The purpose of H.B. 82 is to streamline and design clear pathways to earn an undergraduate degree, whether a student transfer immediately following community college or later.  A single common course numbering system will ensure that appropriate courses will actually transfer and count toward the student's degree plan.  It will replace a cumbersome, complex and expensive system of evaluating transcripts and reduce time for Pell grant eligibility, which requires full application of all courses.

This will help the state, students, and local taxpayers save millions of dollars by eliminating the need to complete unnecessary courses or repeat necessary ones.  Having a state-wide plan will simplify the transfer process for students and enhance the effectiveness of student advising, rather than spending administrative time and effort crafting and implementing individual college-to-university articulation agreements and many “memoranda of understanding.” Students will be able to optimize their community college efforts toward a bachelor's degree, with much less waste of their own money, higher education loans, and state money.  Once accepted to a four-year university, community college transfer students will no longer have to surmount a wall of obstacles to earn their undergraduate degree.  This will improve graduation outcomes for our community colleges and our state universities.

The Bill gives the Higher Education Coordinating Board until June 1, 2014, to adopt procedures for implementing the single common course numbering system.  All public higher education institutions would have time to transition.  The single common course system would be in place for all courses offered, in time for the 2018-2019 academic year.

We've launched the boat.  Now, the next step is to make sure the Bill is navigated through the legislative waters to enactment.  All those who support this concept need to be heard.  Write your State Representatives and Senators.  Attend the public hearings, or send your written testimony to the Committee Chairs in the House and Senate.  You, the public, have the opportunity to help make this happen.  Now is the time.

Representative McClendon currently serves on the House Committee on Appropriations and the House Committee on Transportation.  She also serves as Chair of the House Committee on Rules & Resolutions.  The 83rd Regular Legislative Session will be her ninth term serving Texas House District 120.


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  1. Bad idea
    It's important that students not be forced to retake courses that they've already learned, or jump through unnecessary hoops. But having a one-size-fits-all standard for college credit isn't the answer.

    The fact is, colleges are not interchangable. Different branches of UT are already forced to use many of the same numbers for their classes, but the students are different, and so the content is often different. Learning enough at ACC to place out of one semester of calculus at UT Tyler is probably NOT good enough to survive the 2nd semester of calculus at UT Austin.

    The biggest problem I encounter teaching calculus at UT Austin is students whose preparation is weak, but who have made it through all of the official hoops. (For instance, they've passed the prerequisite at ACC.) They get placed into classes that they're not ready for, and they often crash and burn. Having lost a semester failing a class, they THEN have to go back and learn the preliminaries before they can realistically try again.

    That doesn't do anybody any good. If you want to improve success rates, you have to place students in the classes that they're ready for — neither higher nor lower. If we're talking about placement at University X, only the folks at University X have any idea where to place the bar.

    It's bad to place the bar too high. It's even worse to place it too low and have people fail one or two semesters later. The political pressures have always been to lower the bars, so most of the entry bars at UT Austin are already too low. For every student who wastes a semester taking a class that (s)he should have been able to skip, we have half a dozen who fail classes that they should never have attempted.

    McClendon's bill would make this problem much, much worse.  

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