New plan could benefit transfers, cut programs

by Trevor Metcalfe – Editor-in-Chief – temetcal@unca.edu

The UNC system’s new strategic plan aims to smooth the transfer process between public four-year schools and community colleges, but might erase unique programs and curricula, according to UNC Asheville staff and transfer students.

“It would definitely make transferring from within the state of North Carolina a lot easier,” said Sarah Humphries, the transfer admission counselor at UNCA.

The strategic plan proposes streamlining the system transfer process, allowing for students to easily receive credit hours for courses taken at other UNC schools and community colleges. The plan proposes focusing on community college transfers and those enrolled with associate degrees.

Humphries said the process currently helps community college transfers with a designated list of course equivalencies located on the UNCA website.

“It shows, for all of the North Carolina community colleges, exactly what courses the community colleges offer, and how it translates over into credit for courses at UNC Asheville,” Humphries said. “They can use that as a resource to get a good basic idea of things.”

The plan suggests several solutions to streamline the transfer process, including a $120 million proposal to develop a system-wide list of student learning outcomes, especially within general education requirements. Humphries said the process would simplify students transfers, but campuses could lose unique courses and curricula.

“It would kind of jeopardize the uniqueness of all of the UNC system schools, especially UNC Asheville, because we’re the liberal arts university, and that’s what makes us different,” Humphries said.

Lohar Dohse, a UNCA math professor who worked on a UNC faculty response to the strategic plan, said online course expansion proposed for state schools represented another challenge to determining course transfers. Dohse said massive open online courses, or MOOCs, were particularly difficult to accept for transfer credit.

“It’s a concern for us, because there is no quality control,” Dohse said. “There is nothing we can do to check whether these courses have any value whatsoever.”

After UNCA admissions accepts transfer students, the registrar’s office decides which courses are eligible to receive credit. Humphries said students can also appeal credit decisions with course syllabuses.

“A lot of times, if you can print out your syllabus for a specific course, and you can show exactly what you studied in that class, you can give it to us and we’ll make that judgement call on whether it satisfies some of the requirements here,” Humphries said.

Humphries said UNCA also accepts credit from private college courses if they meet study requirements for a specific major or course.

“It depends on the type of course that it is.” Humphries said. “If it’s like, a horticulture class or something we don’t offer here at all, then no, we don’t accept it.”

Alex Fabiszak, a senior economics student at UNCA, transferred from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College after receiving his associate degree. Fabiszak said the transfer process accepted all but a few courses toward his UNCA degree requirement.

“Overall, it was really easy to transfer over to UNCA and not have to take a bunch of classes I had already taken,” Fabiszak said.

Fabiszak said he encountered the most trouble with his writing intensive transfers, only receiving credit for one of his A-B Tech English courses.

“I petitioned with two upper-level English courses from A-B Tech, but neither was accepted,” Fabiszak said. “The petition for writing intensive classes from other schools takes forever to get everything that they want, so it’s quite rare for a writing intensive class to be accepted from another school.”

Fabiszak said he successfully petitioned for several other courses to count toward degree requirements, including math, introductory colloquial and diversity intensive courses.

The UNC system Board of Governors approved the final draft of the $910 million plan at their Feb. 7 meeting. With the board’s approval, the plan travels to the state legislature next for passage into law.

Dohse said the plan creates noble goals, but would require finesse in the implementation stage.

“Its goals are quite laudable, but achieving those goals will require monumental effort,” Dohse said. “As a faculty member, I am concerned that the problems will arise in the implementation, and that will be the work we need to do in the next couple of years.”

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