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College would accept transfer credits from more accredited institutions under proposed initiative

Kaelah Serrano
Students having conversations in Painting 1 class at 623 S. Wabash Ave. on Friday, March 22, 2024. Students of various majors talk about their spring break plans and graduation.

Students would have more options to transfer coursework from other accredited institutions and to earn credits for bilingual literacy and alternative high school education under three initiatives before the Faculty Senate. 

The Academic Affairs Committee of the senate unanimously approved the changes last week. The initiatives, which still need the approval of the full senate and the provost’s office, would:

  • allow the college to award up to 10 credit hours for GED scores of 175 or greater,
  • give up to six credits of lower-level language credit in the humanities for students who earned the Illinois state seal of biliteracy in high school and
  • review all coursework from other accredited institutions.

The college currently only accepts transfer credit from other regionally accredited colleges and universities. Although it considers transfer credit from select institutions with discipline-specific accreditation — such as the Council for Interior Design Accreditation — it does not allow coursework from a nationally accredited institution that does not hold a programmatic accreditation.

“This means that if a person applies to transfer from a school that is accredited at the national level but does not have a specialized accreditation, in Theatre, for example, we do not review their courses for transfer,” said Holly Herrera, associate provost for Transfer Initiatives and Academic Partnerships.

If approved, the new policy would consider all college courses for transfer. This does not mean that the college would accept every course from every school, but that there will be a review of the course’s syllabus, textbook and even student assignments to determine if the transfer would be accepted.

Herrera said that it is important for student success to ensure that the courses the college accepts as transfer credit are “similar in depth, breadth, scope, and rigor of our own courses.”

“College students of the 21st century are not “doing college” the same way that they have in years past. More students are earning college credit before completing high school and learning technical skills in their communities and through Massive Open Online Courses like Coursera and Sophia Learning.”

The college receives the most transfer applications from Full Sail University, SAE Institute of Technology and the Los Angeles Film School, which are all nationally accredited programs.

But none of the coursework from these schools is considered for transfer credit under the college’s current policy. 

By the numbers:

Of the 6,529 students enrolled in Fall 2023, nearly a quarter, or 1,526 were transfer students, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. 

The percentage has stayed about the same but the number dropped from 2,036 in Fall 2019.

The Cinema and Television Arts Department has the largest number of transfers. It also is the largest department at the college. In Fall 2023, it had 289 transfer students. The Design Department had 222 students and Interactive Arts and Media had 179. 

One of the reasons Herrera has pushed for a change in the transfer credit policy is because nationally accredited institutions tend to have more diverse student populations. 

The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges reported in 2021 that 65% of students enrolled at their accredited institutions identified as a member of a historically excluded racial or ethnic group.

What else:

The new GED credit policy would mirror how Columbia awards college credit for exceptional high school coursework through Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate.

Herrera said in an email to the Chronicle that the change would broaden the existing policy “to be inclusive of exceptional scores earned through alternative high school completion.”

The Illinois State Seal of Biliteracy recognizes high school graduates who have earned proficiency in one or more languages other than English. The proposed policy would award six credits of lower-level language study for those earning the state seal in languages offered at Columbia, with the exception of American Sign Language.

Herrera said that any state seals awarded in ASL will receive six credits of humanities coursework as students must complete a placement process to receive credit toward an American Sign Language major or minor.

What students are saying:

Senior marketing and public relations major Jordan Neal said he thinks this will be a good way to bring in new students.

 “I think that’s actually really good, a lot of people will be able to benefit from it. I feel like a lot of people who are probably in a GED program or something similar can kind of have the idea that they aren’t going to be able to get a good footing in college, Neal said.

Senior English major Henry Hall said that he is glad to hear that the initiatives will make the college “more accessible and appealing.”

“So many people transfer, so keeping that opportunity open and as flexible as possible will definitely be good. I think making that opportunity more versatile will make more transfers possible.” Hall said.

Second year film and television major Jasmine Dunigan said the more generous transfer credit policy is good for students even if it’s just the college’s attempt to “stay above water” because of its growing deficit.

“It’s frustrating when you take certain classes or certain tests and they’re not even transferable to a certain college so essentially increasing transfer credits does seem like it could be helpful for students,” Dunigan said.

Herrera said that these three policy proposals recognize that Columbia students are creating their own path and “will ensure inclusivity” of those paths. 

“This is the perfect time for consideration of these proposed policies as we take a closer look at how Columbia can better support the academic and professional success of current and future students,” Herrera said.

Copy edited by Jordilin Ruiz

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About the Contributors
Vivian Richey, Assistant Campus Editor
vrichey@columbiachronicle.com   Vivian Richey is a sophomore journalism major, who reports on the college's Faculty Senate, Columbia's COVID-19 protocols and campus art exhibitions. She joined the Chronicle in January 2023.   Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Kaelah Serrano, Director of Photography
kserrano@columbiachronicle.com   Kaelah Serrano is a junior photojournalism major. She has covered music festivals, campus art exhibitions and metro parades and protests. Serrano joined the Chronicle in January 2023.   Hometown: Chicago, Illinois