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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Transferring AZ colleges simplified

The Arizona Legislature passed a bill aimed at making transferring colleges in Arizona easier.

Gov. Jan Brewer ceremoniously signed a bill on Wednesday that compels Arizona universities and community colleges to create a shared course numbering system to enable easier credit transfer for transfer students. The bill, S.B. 1186, was passed by the legislature last spring.

The Arizona Students’ Association asked for the bill’s proposal as part of the group’s three major legislative priorities for this year.

“”A lot of times with transferring there’s either a miscommunication or something is lost in the bureaucracy that makes students have to retake classes,”” said Elma Delic, the ASA board chair. “”We saw this issue all across the state.””

Delic stressed that the system in Arizona will target the needs of Arizona institutions and students, citing that the bill provides flexibility in how the system is developed.   

“”When we were doing our research for a long-term solution we saw that this would be the best option going forward,”” Delic said.

Beth Acree, registrar in enrollment management at the Office of the Registrar, said that the bill has not been discussed in any official capacity as of yet.

“”This is a statewide process, it’s not just a matter of what the UA wants to do,”” Acree said. “”Everyone, all the colleges, are going to have to get together and decide what this system will look like.””

The bill originally prescribed a common course numbering system, where public universities and community colleges across the state would have to adopt a singular numbering system for transferable classes, but was amended to a shared numbering system before passage. ASA modeled its proposal for the common course numbering system after similar measures already in place in 12 states across the country.

Some UA faculty expressed concerns over the cost of implementing a common numbering system.

To implement such a system could cost the UA more than $1 million, according to estimations by Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee chair and Faculty Senate Secretary J.C. Mutchler.

“”That’s a million dollars that can be spent to do something else,”” Mutchler said.

Financial commitments are also the root of concerns for some UA administrators.

“”The conversion will be expensive and I would prefer to spend these funds on academic priorities, for example advisers, instructors,”” said UA President Robert Shelton. “”However, I do understand the desire to simplify.””

This is not the first time Arizona has considered a system of this nature. In 2007, the Arizona Academic Program Articulation Steering Committee contacted an outside firm, Hezel Associates, to compile an evaluation of the state’s transfer model and systems. In their report, Hezel Associates found that “”the Arizona transfer system appears to working well and functioning as a tool and system exactly as intended.””

Hezel Associates did offer six suggestions for improving the system, all of which pertained to increasing visibility, usability and communication of resources.   

Mutchler, who is also a professor at UA South, believes there is a substantial need for increased advising and networking between community colleges and Arizona’s three universities.

“”Anything we can do to get students through degrees quicker, without a loss in quality, is the goal,”” Mutchler said. “”We’re honestly exploring dozens of options right now to help make education cheaper, get people degrees faster and provide a better quality education.””

But he is by no means sold on the bill.

“”I think that overall the idea of getting students better advising, anything that helps them complete their education in a quality fashion, that isn’t even in question,”” Mutchler said. “”I don’t honestly know if this is the best way to do that, though.””

Acree shared some of Mutchler’s sentiments.

“”It’s hard to say whether the benefits are going to clearly outweigh the costs that are going to be involved,”” Acree said. “”But if it happens then it will be a good thing. It will be very beneficial to our students.””

Delic dismissed some of the concerns over the cost of the bill.

“”People are quoting millions (of dollars) right now, but those figures assume we’re starting from square one, making an entire new system instead of updating our existing one,”” Delic said. “”I don’t anticipate it being a huge burden on the university, but it will have a huge impact for students.””  

As per specification outlined in the bill, Arizona universities and community colleges have until Dec. 15 of this year to submit a proposal to the Board of Regents as part of their usual annual reports.

“”It’s going to be a great day,”” Delic said.

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