Manchester Community College Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CT Mirror
Manchester Community College
Manchester Community College Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CT Mirror

Community college faculty and the leader of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee are upset with a proposal UConn officials plan to vote Monday on that would limit the number of credits students can transfer from community colleges.

The proposal would require students who enroll at UConn as freshman to earn three-quarters of their credits from the flagship university. The reason given by a university official to UConn faculty is that “the vast majority of students who take the first general-education course at a community college and the succeeding/following course at UConn will flunk or withdraw.”

Students who enroll now at UConn as freshmen can transfer up to 90 credits earned at another school toward their degree. The proposal being considered would limit the number of general education credits that students can transfer to 15 and total number of credits to 30. The change would not impact Advanced Placement credits students earn in high school for college or students who start at a community college and transfer to UConn as a sophomore or junior.

“I am very frustrated with this. I wish they wouldn’t do it, quite frankly,” Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, and the co-chair of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee.

With the legislative session to begin in three months and several other legislators upset by this move by UConn, Bye said there is no doubt that lawmakers will be looking at this problem.

“We need to exert pressure on UConn to be accepting… We would rather not have to pass bills to fix these things,” she said during an interview.

A spokeswoman for UConn said the proposal is in no way aimed at diminishing the importance of the community colleges.

“We respect and admire the work done by all institutions in the state. Transfer students from Connecticut’s community colleges are an integral part of the UConn fabric,” Stephanie Reitz wrote in a statement. “We want to reiterate that the proposed policy change on transfer credits does not apply to any particular college or set of colleges or indicate a lack of confidence in their academic rigor. Rather, it reflects our belief that students who matriculate at UConn as first-time freshmen should take the majority of their courses at UConn.”

But the faculty at Manchester Community College aren’t buying it.

Most UConn students who take classes at other schools do so at the state’s community colleges.

In a memo, Sally Reis, vice provost for academic affairs and UConn’s vice president for enrollment, says that students are failing UConn courses after taking the “easier and cheaper classes” at nearby community colleges.

“They offer no evidence that classes at community colleges are ‘easier.’ This is a fallacy and distracts from the greater pursuit all of us in academia share: high quality education,” faculty who serve on MCC’s Academic Senate wrote in an open letter to UConn faculty. “Community colleges are proud of our access and affordability. Let’s not confuse access with lower quality, however.”

Barbara Douglass, president of Northwestern Connecticut Community College, is also unhappy with UConn.

“I have to admit, I am a bit offended that there is more than an inference that our teaching and our faculty are anything less than anyone else,” Douglass told the Waterbury Republican American recently. “I would stack my faculty up against UConn or anyone else for lower division courses in the undergraduate level.”

Already struggling with the fiscal impact of declining enrollment, the community colleges heavily depend on  transfer students to fill their classrooms. UConn’s seniors last year took 2,023 credits at Norwalk Community College, 853 credits at MCC and 845 credits at Naugutuck Community College.

In last year’s senior class at UConn, one in 25 students — or 76 students — took more than 36 credits at other schools during their time at UConn, officials report.

More than 200 students — one in 10 seniors — had transferred in more than 15 credits from other schools toward their UConn degree.

UConn is emphasizing the small number of students this change would impact to relieve concerns.

“I write to assure you that the proposed policy change is intended for a small number of freshmen Uconn students,” Reis of UConn wrote Manchester faculty Friday afternoon. “I regret the negative assumptions drawn from this internal change.”

But Bye said if it impacts even one student, then that is too many.

“Every student matters. That’s 75 to 80 students who will lose time and money and may not graduate,” the higher education co-chairwoman said.

And while this proposal does not impact students who start college at a community colleges or elsewhere and want to transfer their credits to UConn, the minutes from the flagship’s University Senate show they are considering limiting those credits as well.

“It is currently permissible for a student to earn 90 credits elsewhere and then enroll and complete the final 30 here; this will not be affected by the proposed by-laws change,” read the minutes from the Oct. 14 meeting. “Reis is looking into the number of permissible transfer credits as a separate issue. She has been working with [UConn’s vice president for enorllment] to get data and will bring a proposal to the Scholastic Standards committee when ready.”

In order to ensure that the courses that students were once taking elsewhere are available at UConn, officials told UConn faculty that the plan is to increase the availability of summer courses at the flagships main and regional campuses.

The proposal is expected to be voted on Monday by the University Senate, which is predominantly made up of UConn faculty. The Board of Trustees, the system’s governing board, does not need to approve this change.

Open letter to UConn faculty from Manchester Community College

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UConn’s response to “Open letter to UConn” from Manchester faculty

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Minutes from UConn faculty meet where transfer proposal discussed

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Rationale for Limiting the Number of Transfer Credits

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Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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