This doesn’t seem like rocket science.
In fact, it’s surprising to learn there’s still a problem with making sure students can take courses at Kansas community colleges and have credit for those courses count toward a four-year degree at a state university. If that’s the case, however, it’s high time the Kansas Board of Regents got to work on the issue.
The rising cost of a university education has prompted more and more Kansas students to start their post-secondary careers at a community college, perhaps in a location closer to home, where they can take many basic courses at a much lower cost. Unfortunately, according to community college students and counselors quoted in a Journal-World story earlier this week, making sure those course credits transfer to a state university still can be a dicey proposition. Community counselors can point students to courses that probably will transfer, but they say there are no guarantees.
Again, this is not rocket science. Course credits either transfer or they don’t. It should be easy enough to share that information with community college students and counselors so they can plan accordingly.
A regents task force currently is looking at the issue and has identified 55 hours of courses that will transfer freely among colleges and universities. Now they are in the process of looking at each course to make sure it measures up to university education standards.
That raises an interesting question for university officials. It has become common practice for Kansas University students to enroll in a community college course to obtain credits they need to complete a degree. Many full-time KU students every year travel to Johnson County Community College or sign up for online classes at more distant community colleges to take classes — foreign language, math, Western Civilization and others — that, for whatever reason, they don’t want to take at KU.
The courses may be less expensive at the community college, but, in many cases, that isn’t the primary motivation for the KU students. It’s because they are looking for an easier course, a different teacher or a better schedule. KU and other state universities need to be flexible, but they shouldn’t ignore this trend.
Do the community college courses these students are opting into fully meet KU’s academic standards? Does the fact that full-time KU students are seeking credits at community colleges indicate something about the quality of the corresponding courses or teachers available at KU? Is it sometimes a matter of scheduling that prompts KU students to take advantage of community college courses rather than spending an additional semester or year to complete their degrees on Mount Oread? Community colleges may literally be giving universities an academic run for their money.
It is absolutely necessary, especially with the rising cost of a higher education, to make sure community college students who hope to complete a university degree aren’t wasting their time or money taking courses that won’t transfer. At the same time, it’s vital to maintain high standards for those transfer credits and not allow community colleges to simply provide an easy out for university students.