Kansas community colleges, private colleges adopt student transfer agreement

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Thirty-nine schools sign deal guaranteeing acceptance of 60 credit hours

TOPEKA — An academic alliance years in the making among more than three dozen Kansas community colleges and independent colleges will help students earning an associate’s degree avoid costly and time-consuming problems of transferring credit hours to a four-year school.

The coordination agreement signed by 19 members of the Kansas Community College Association and 20 members of the Kansas Independent College Association guaranteed students earning the two-year diploma at a Kansas community college the opportunity to enroll as a junior at one of the nonprofit, private colleges or universities in the Kansas association.

The key is transferring students would be recognized as having finished all general education requirements and wouldn’t be in jeopardy of having a portion of those 60 hours of community college credit rejected by the independent college. In the past, some transfer students were compelled to retake courses.

“This is going to build trust with our students,” said Heather Morgan, executive director of the community college organization. “It makes us feel better as community college leaders, that our students are protected.”

She said on the Kansas Reflector podcast the policy would be implemented in fall 2023, but some participating colleges have been engaged in this type of partnership on a regional level.

“This takes away all of the problems and confusion that happened with individual school articulation agreements and says, ‘If you complete your associate’s degree, you’re assured this benefit,’ ” Morgan said.

The 39 signers of the transfer agreement serve more than half of all college students enrolled in Kansas.

Matt Lindsey, president of the Kansas independent college organization, said debate about college affordability and access carried negotiations toward a deal that would demonstrate to Kansas families and taxpayers the two higher education organizations were “leading the way.”

A national study in 2017 indicated U.S. students transferring from a community college to a four-year institution lost an average of 43% of accumulated course credits or about 13 credit hours, Lindsey said.

“So, we’re talking about a full semester lost,” he said. “That has dramatically negative impacts on the ability to graduate on time, to be able to graduate affordably, to get right out into the workforce, which is why most of our students are going to college.”

Lindsey said campus leaders emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic committed to hammering out the collaboration agreement following years of start-and-stop discussions. Faculty at participating colleges understood this reform would benefit students, he said.

Morgan and Lindsey said the transfer agreement could spur colleges to engage in other partnerships. It could lead to greater sharing of faculty and changes to advising so students better understood their options.

“How can we make sure that private college voices are more present at the community colleges? How can we make sure that community college voices are more prevalent among the private college conversations?” Lindsey said.

The Kansas Board of Regents, which has direct jurisdiction over six public universities, has been working on a transfer program that would cover 34 credit hours of general education classes.

Some states have mandated higher education coordinating boards overcome parochial, academic and financial obstacles to improving transfer of course credits.

Michael Schneider, president of McPherson College, said text of the agreement among the community colleges and the independent colleges in Kansas would serve as “preamble to the new stories of enterprise that our students will write.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus 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: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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