Storrs — A plan that would have limited the number of credits University of Connecticut students can take at community colleges and other colleges has been put off indefinitely.
“We believe it is in the best interest to postpone the vote,” Gerald Gianutsos, a professor of pharmacology and chair of the University Senate’s Scholastic Standards Committee, told faculty and UConn officials Monday.
The proposal — which would have limited the number of general education credits that students can transfer to 15 and total number of credits to 30 — has drawn the ire of faculty at the community colleges and some state lawmakers who are concerned with its impact on students seeking cheaper courses or smaller class sizes. And with UConn students taking thousands of credits at the community colleges each year, such a change could also fiscally impact the already struggling community colleges if enrollment dips further.
“I am very frustrated with this,” Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, the Senate chairwoman of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, said during a recent interview on the proposal. Bye said if the proposal is approved, there was no doubt that the legislature would be looking at the problems it creates.
But Monday evening, UConn’s University Senate, which consists predominantly of faculty, voted unanimously to put off a scheduled vote on the proposal until staff and faculty have a chance to work out the concerns from those at the community colleges and other universities.
Gianutsos informed the senate that the current drafted proposal is dead and that his committee is working on a new recommendation to accommodate its initial purpose. Limiting the number of credits that students who enroll in UConn as freshmen can take elsewhere was crafted in a effort to boost the caliber of a UConn degree by ensuring students who earn UConn degrees are taking the majority of their courses at the flagship university.
Most UConn students who take classes at other schools do so at the state’s community colleges, according to university officials.
In a memo, Sally Reis, vice provost for academic affairs and UConn’s vice president for enrollment, said that students are failing UConn courses after taking the “easier and cheaper classes” at nearby community colleges.
The proposal didn’t sit well with Colleen Cyr, a mother currently paying for her daughter to attend Middlesex Community College in Middletown and who has another child approaching college age.
“We cannot afford four years at UConn,” Cyr, who lives in Meriden, said. “Certainly as a low- to moderate-income parent of college students, I think the changes are elitist, snotty and contrary to common sense.”
While the proposal would have impacted just the students who enroll at UConn as freshman, and not students who transfer in as sophomores or juniors after attending another college, UConn officials are looking at those “credits as a separate issue” and crafting a separate proposal, read the minutes from the senate’s October meeting.
“I can read the handwriting on the wall, so to speak, and think if they are successful with th[is] policy change they are going to expand it, and options for my children would be longer be an option,” said Cyr, whose three children are all hoping to have the chance to transfer to UConn someday.
In last year’s senior class at UConn, more than 200 students — one in 10 — had transferred more than 15 credits from other schools during their time at UConn. Seventy-six students had transferred more than 36 credits — one in 25 seniors — toward their UConn degree.
Gianutsos said that after talking with several people in the 24 hours leading up to the vote, it became clear that the proposal as it’s currently worded was problematic and that there was a need for “a better proposal to be crafted.”
“Upon further reflection, we need to refine and clarify the [proposal] and details and allow for more comprehensive dialogue,” he told UConn faculty and officials Monday.
A spokeswoman for the college system responsible for the state’s dozen community colleges declined The Mirror’s request for an interview with someone to ask if the Board of Regents’ officials support or oppose the measure and what the impact would be. Juliet Manalan referred to the system’s weeks-old statement on the importance of transfer credits.
“Transferring credits is an important component of affordability, which is why the Board of Regents is moving to implement a plan across our 17 [community colleges and state universities] to ensure that students are taking the right courses toward their degree or certification –- and that all of those credits count,” Manalan wrote last month.