By Sophie Foster
This semester, Washington College officially approved alterations to its policies regarding transfer credits, specifically as they apply to students transferring to the College from in-state community colleges.
According to a WC news brief, this shift will affect potential future students with either an associate in arts or an associate in science degree from a Maryland community college. With this new policy in place, all credits earned by these individuals in pursuit of their associate’s degree will be transferred to the College.
This change will make the completion of four-year degrees substantially easier for these students, according to Interim Provost and Dean Dr. Michael Harvey.
The process, known as direct transfer, will enable transfers to begin their WC careers as juniors, and immediately declare and enter into work with their majors. While this will not impact the process of application and admission, it will significantly alter the students’ academic journeys following said admission into the College.
Contrasting with the previous process, in which courses on transcripts are considered individually to determine which community college credits meet WC’s requirements, this new plan indicates a consensus among the College’s faculty that Maryland community college curriculums match WC’s distribution requirements.
Approaching this decision, the faculty evaluated in-state community college curriculums to assess the expectations of their associate degree programs. The sole exception will be the foreign language requirement, which will continue to be assessed individually. Additionally, all out-of-state community college transfers will continue to be considered on a person-by-person, course-by-course basis per the original policy.
“This is a national issue,” Vice President for Enrollment Management Dr. Johnnie Johnson said in the news brief. “Small liberal arts institutions have a lot of specifications about what the general education requirements have to be that you don’t see at a public school.”
According to Assistant Dean for Transfer Pathways and Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. Jennifer Benson, this decision came about first from an endeavor to update records. The Articulation System for Maryland Colleges and Universities, ARTSYS, is the state’s database housing resources for community college students, primarily those with the intention of transferring to a four-year institution.
“We started realizing…that the ARTSYS system was going to be phased out, [so] we started asking a lot of questions about what the transfer students experience and where there seemed to be friction,” Dr. Benson said.
According to Dr. Benson, this generates the opportunity for students to be recognized and rewarded for having earned their associate’s degree, and it provides heightened efficiency in earning a bachelor’s degree. In particular, this would render assistance to students who intend to complete their bachelor’s degree but face obstacles on the pathway to it.
“We don’t want to create administrative problems for them,” Dr. Benson said. “These are important ways students can get an education and live a life with less precarity in it.”
The motivation behind this shift is not only the simplification of the transfer process, but increasing the viability of WC as an institution accessible to students aiming to obtain their bachelor’s degree, according to Dr. Benson.
According to Dr. Johnson, the prior policy often led these students to seek enrollment at public universities and state schools with fewer or less strict general education requirements for their degree programs than liberal arts institutions like WC.
“Being a small college, we know the students. We really can cater to those individual needs,” Johnson said in the news brief. “This makes Washington College an attractive option for students from our community college partners. It says to those students, ‘We want you to be a part of our community.’”
Dr. Benson echoed this sentiment, explaining that department chairs, the curriculum committee, and other faculty members all played roles in developing this progression.
“This is a social justice task,” Dr. Benson said. “It’s the kind of work we can do to really help students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degree to accomplish that with efficiency.”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo Caption: The community colleges of Maryland, such as CCBC, will now have easier transfer pathways to Washington College comparable to public institutions such as UMBC.