News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Indiana Legislature

February 14, 2012

Bill would ease college credit transfers

Higher Ed chief calls idea ‘common sense’

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana college students worried about whether their credit hours will transfer to another university may get some relief if a proposed higher-education bill passes.

The legislation would streamline the college credit transfer process, in part by requiring a common course numbering system that all state public universities would have to follow.

The goal is to make it easier for college students to know if costly course credits will transfer to another university before the student shells out the money to pay for them.

“It’s a student-friendly bill,” said state Rep. Mike Karickhoff, a Kokomo Republican who’s carrying the bill in the House.

The legislation passed 50-0 in the state Senate and passed out of the House education committee Monday on a 10-0 vote.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education, described the bill as a piece of “common sense legislation.”

But she also acknowledged that it’s been a long time in the making.

Until recently, the state’s publicly funded universities have resisted a common course numbering system, arguing that it diminishes their role as the gatekeepers of academic integrity.

But the Commission on Higher Education has become more aggressive as college costs have escalated in recent years, Lubbers said.

Commission members were hearing what Karickhoff said is a common complaint heard by legislators throughout the state. That is, that college students transferring to another university were having to pay to repeat coursework they’d already taken.

“The cost of higher education just keeps going up,” said Karickhoff. “If you’re going to pay for credit hours, you should know if they’re going to count toward a degree.”

At a hearing on the bill Monday, Lubbers said Indiana college students who transfer to another school face additional tuition costs and a delay in completing their degrees. That’s because many of the state universities won’t accept those students’ transfer credits.

The problem also occurs within a university system, when one branch campus won’t accept transfer credits from another branch campus within the same university.

The bill, if passed, would also require state-funded institutions to have at least 30 “general education” credit hours that are compatible with the curriculum at any state school.

That would mean, for example, that students earning an associate degree at Ivy Tech Community College would have an easier time getting those college credit hours to transfer to a four-year, state university.

Karickoff said concerns about college costs are behind the push for making college credits more portable. “We need to help Hoosier families who see the cost of college just keep going up.”

Lubbers cites U.S. Department of Education numbers to make her case for college-cost containment: Indiana now has the third-highest student-loan default rate in the nation.

And two out of every three students who graduates from a four-year college in Indiana is carrying a student-loan debt load of more than $27,000.

Maureen Hayden is the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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