Board of Regents may raise community college-to-university credit transfer cap

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TOPEKA — The Kansas Board of Regents may raise to 75 the number of credit hours that could be transferred from a community college to a state university following success of a two-year pilot involving Johnson County Community College and the nearby Edwards campus of the University of Kansas.

The state higher education governance board intends to weigh adjustment of the existing 60-hour transfer maximum, but the earliest action by the board would be this fall.

The idea took on urgency last week when board members discussed expanding the KU-JCCC pilot to Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, Emporia State University, Wichita State University and Washburn University. Each university would choose one partner community college for the experiment.

As an alternative, interest was expressed by several members of the Board of Regents in the idea of skipping extra research and escalating the transfer limit by the equivalent of one semester of courses.

“This is awesome and we should do this with everyone,” said Shane Bangerter, a Dodge City attorney who is going off the Board of Regents. “This is something that will benefit students across the entire state. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this is going to work.”

Both the pilot and expansion options were put on hold pending further review at the Board of Regents’ budget and policy retreat in August.

The KU-JCCC pilot demonstrated students taking advantage of the temporary 75-credit transfer option earned solid grade-point averages, said Daniel Archer, the Board of Regents’ vice president of academic affairs. He said the KU-JCCC initiative was “very advantageous” to Johnson County students who otherwise could hop the state line and enroll at a Missouri university where there wasn’t a 60-hour limit on credit transfers.

Archer said the Kansas higher education system should proceed cautiously because the policy had to apply to tiny community colleges as well as large universities. Such a change will touch issues as diverse as student advising, program accreditation and tuition revenue.

Messaging to students needs to be precise because not all academic programs will be part of a 75-hour transfer initiative, he said.

If established as Board of Regents’ policy, the cost savings for students who completed more courses at a community college rather than a state university could be substantial.

For example, in-state tuition at JCCC stood at $96 per credit hour. KU’s Edwards campus charges tuition of $336 per credit hour for a Kansas resident student — or 3.5 times JCCC’s rate. If a JCCC student could finish an additional 15 credit hours at the community college rather than KU, the savings in tuition could total $3,600.

Board of Regents member Allen Schmidt, of Hays, urged colleagues to slow down and be deliberate about transition to a higher transfer threshold statewide.

“I just don’t like jumping forward when we don’t even have all the universities on board,” he said.

Fort Hays State University officials declined to take part in the expanded pilot study and were apprehensive about endorsing an increase in the number of credit hours that could be transferred by a community college student interested in earning a FHSU bachelor’s degree.

Wichita State and Emporia State presidents balked at immediate adoption of the transfer policy, preferring to evaluate results of a wider pilot study.

“Wichita State’s the largest transfer destination,” said WSU president Richard Muma. “I would really like an opportunity … to see what our data looks like. I think this is probably inevitable.”

Allison Garrett, president of Emporia State, said she was excited about extending reach of the pilot but couldn’t assess whether to endorse permanent adjustment of the transfer-hour policy without scrutinizing behavior of students moving from a community college to ESU.

“I’d just be discouraged with another two-year pilot,” said Blake Flanders, president and chief executive officer of the Board of Regents. “We need to try to keep walking forward. Make this as seamless as possible.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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