Sandy Wilson isn’t going to graduate on time because she lacks credits — in classes she’s already taken.
Forty of her 65 Montgomery College credits did not transfer when she arrived at Frostburg State University this semester.
So while her friends from Wheaton High School prepare for graduation, the 21-year-old sophomore faces three more years of college. To make up the lost courses she must spend two extra years in school, which will cost her $14,400.
“My credits didn’t transfer well, because I didn’t know what I was doing,” Wilson said. “I knew I was going to transfer. I just didn’t know what I was going to do.”
State educators hope Wilson is among the last students left in the dark about what will transfer. A new Maryland Higher Education Commission policy that went into effect this summer will help fix the problem, they say.
The policy creates a common definition for general education classes — those everyone in college must take, regardless of major. Students now will know that when they take such a class at one school, it will transfer to the others.
“No matter where you go in higher education, a general education course will be a general education course,” said David Sumler, planning and academic affairs coordinator at the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
In the past, community college students with a specific four-year school in mind could tailor their classes to that school’s curriculum. But students who did not know which school they wanted were paralyzed, because each four-year school had different core requirements.
Helen Giles-Gee, associate vice chancellor for the system, said the new policy “sees the new trends in transfer.”
Statistics show that the number of students transferring has increased, and that they transfer more often. Transferees from Maryland community colleges to public four-year schools went up from 4,907 in the 1980-’81 school year to 7,122 in 1992-’93. That was among a total 9,214 students transferring to nine University of Maryland schools that year — a jump up from 4,825 during 1988-’89, the earliest year for systemwide figures.
And while the policy means a lot of changes for state colleges, it will help students. “We want the students to be the beneficaries,” Giles-Gee said. “It’s the one thing that kept everyone at the table.”
Salisbury State Dean of Admissions Jane Dane agreed. “It certainly will give [students] confidence that they can transfer in and out,” Dane said.
But administrators stress that students must prepare as soon as they know they want to change schools. At most schools, counselors are available to help.
“One of the biggest functions of a community college is to prepare students for transfer,” said Barbara Greenfield, director of admissions at Howard County Community College. Students, she added, “do a little too much listening to what other students say.”
Under the new policy, colleges may no longer require students to take Physical Education and skills classes such as typing to fulfill general education.
The policy also raises math and science requirements. Students no longer may apply non-college level courses to general education requirements.
In Wilson’s case, Frostburg accepted but would not count many education and psychology courses towards her degree, because the classes did not fit perfectly into the university’s education curriculum.
The new policy forces similar departments at different schools to accept each other’s credits in the student’s major.
Admissions officials differ on how the new policy will affect them.
“If we’re looking at access for students it’s better,” Dane said. “If we’re looking at transition in the office, it’s bad.” She said transfer coordinators would have added work, trying to match classes to curriculum.
Others, however, said the policy would neither slow the transfer process nor add work where admissions are done electronically.
“It will take some of the guess work out of how courses will transfer,” said Mary Killmeyer, assistant director of admissions for transfer at the University of Maryland College Park.
Wilson hopes things work out better for students who change schools in the future, but says the new policy does little to console her.
She fell in love with the scenic western Maryland mountains during camping trips as a teenager. In high school, she fell in love with children while working at a day care center. The two loves come together at Frostburg, where she is majoring in education.
But faced with the financial pressures of paying for three more years of college, Wilson may have to choose a major with fewer requirements.
“I was a little disappointed,” she said. “I was hoping to graduate in a year or two.” -30-