Transfer credits appear to be yet another sticky spot that requires higher education to decide if it is a public- or private-good industry. The process of trying to transfer over a class from one college to another seems to pit one college against the other in much the same way the value of a new car plummets as soon as its driven off the dealer's lot: both happen because of a lack of knowledge, which leads to a lack of trust. This is tough, because competing interests should have a little something different that makes them stand out. But if higher education, as seems to be the case, emerges as an opportunity that everyone should have, those differences will have a hard time existing since we'll need everyone to know the same thing. It seems that the answer to this problem has been to make more classes transferable, which, in turn, makes them more similar among different colleges that have traditionally had to compete for students.
What if we're not asking the right question? The question, to me, is not how to make more classes transferable and thus sacrifice the uniqueness and individuality of each campus. Instead, let's look at why students seek to transfer credits in the first place; let's find out why, when 80 percent planned to when they enrolled, only 25 percent of the students at two-year institutions actually transfer to a four-year within five years as the article states; let's figure out why, as the article offers, "students who are allowed to transfer almost all of their credits are two and a half times more likely to completely [sic] a bachelor's degree than those who transfer fewer than half, according to the Community College Research Center"; let's consider why it's so difficult when students don't fit nicely into a process.
Finally, let's talk about why are we still talking about community college as a stepping stone to a university. The final quote from Bruce Leslie, chancellor of Alamo Colleges, reflects this as he explains the "push-pull" model:
As high school push [students] to us, we need to pull them as we push students to universities, and they need to pull our students into the universities. The goal is not longer just send them to community college.I suppose taken in context, this makes great sense, but talking about "just" sending a student to a community college seems a little narrow-viewed. A student who is going to a 2-year to get their generals taken care of and then enrolls in a 4-year for their core content classes is probably pretty concerned about credits transferring, but this seems to assume an awful lot about enough students to warrant this kind of attention. Some industries don't require a 4-year degree, and some students need all the courage they can muster just to step onto a community college campus. Let's ask some more questions before we come up with an answer.
The Truth Behind Your State's High School Grad Rate (NPR.org)
Make sure you click the "it's a complicated number" link on the page; this is where Anya Kamenetz brings out the big guns. The improved graduation rate comes down to three reasons: schools are stepping in early by concentrating on pre-K, lowering the bar with alternative (and often easier) routes to graduation, and "gaming the system" by excluding likely dropouts from their numbers.
The overall question is the value of a high school diploma. For higher education, this means we need to rethink what we use to admit students. Many, many colleges refer to the research on how predictive high school grades and overall GPA can be for college success. Like the problem with transfer credits, colleges struggle with a lack of knowledge; however, unlike the solution with transfer credits, colleges hesitate to make their own rules out of fear of a lost enrollee.
This is a really, really pertinent article since it ties very closely with another big education push: college completion. The effects are reflected in the number of students who score low on the ACT (check your state's average score), who test into remedial education, who leave college due to academic reasons, and even who are deemed 'unprepared' by employers. All of those answers we thought we had need to be reconsidered.