House committee discusses MnSCU credit transfers

Looks like the bill by Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoke) that would require all schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system to accept each other's credits -- at least as electives -- is part of an annual drive to get MnSCU to hurry up its credit-transfer reform.

Abeler, who said credit transfer was an issue when he was on the committee, took a little poke at MnSCU by recalling how it was formed from the myriad state colleges and universities:

"When the merger happened, there were mixed reviews. But one of benefits was this 'seamless transfer' process. But there have been little bumps along the way -- and one of those bumps has been transfers."

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Much of the trouble seems to be with technical schools, he said:

"There is a divergence of appreciation for technical college, and a divergence in ways that credits get transferred."

The latest estimate is that 91 percent of credits transfer, he said, and he pushed allowing credits to at least be counted as electives so that the transfer rate can go to 100.

"If we can’t transfer 100 percent of credits from one MnSCU institution to another MnSCU institution, where should they transfer? This should be 'seamless service.' I’m willing to entertain other rewrites (of the bill). One hundred percent is optimistic, but 91 is not a good number."

Rep. Poppe (DFL-Austin), a higher-ed counselor, seemed skeptical, saying MnSCU was already making progress, and that students needed to be aware of regulations so they know whether the courses they're taking will transfer.

"One aspect may be the need to take personal responsibility. We (counselors) act (only) as transfer guides."

Abeler replied that budget cuts might leave students with fewer counselors and resources to help them out.

When asked why Abeler wanted to make the mandate retroactive to include those earned in the 2000-2001 school year, he said, "I wanted to capture as many credits as I could -- but I can rewrite it."

Kim Norton (D-Rochester) said Abeler may be "putting the cart before the horse." But also said he might want to reword the bill so that universities are required to first try to transfer credits not just as electives, but as the university courses.

"The way it reads now, it might encourage colleges to transfer all (questionable) credits as electives, and so students may end up with this big load of electives."

Abeler said he's flexible about a rewrite.