The Texas Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that is designed to make sure college students lose fewer credits when they transfer from one school to another.
Senate Bill 25 reorganizes lower-division courses that many students take at community colleges, making it easier for them to predict which ones will transfer to four-year colleges and universities and how they'll apply to degree plans there. The bill now goes to the House.
Sen. Royce West, the bill's author, said Texas college students, their parents and state taxpayers waste a combined $55 million each year on college courses that don't end up applying to students' final degree plans.
A similar bill passed the Senate in the last legislative session, but it failed in the House. West, a Democrat from Dallas, said this year's attempt was the product of a compromise among community colleges, four-year universities and the Texas Coordinating Board for Higher Education. With the support of all three, West said he was optimistic this year's version of the bill would move through the House.
On Wednesday, West introduced an amendment that would require four-year institutions to submit annual reports to the coordinating board showing any courses they don't accept for transfer credit. The amendment is similar to Senate Bill 502, which was introduced by Sen. Kel Seliger, a Republican from Amarillo.
Currently, the state keeps no data on credits that students lose during transfer. West said those reports would give lawmakers and higher education officials a better idea of the pitfalls in the state's transfer process.
The amendment would also require high school students enrolled in dual credit courses to file degree plans after completing 15 hours of credit.
During a conference call with journalists Tuesday, Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said he hopes the bill will ease the transfer process for students across the state. Paredes described course transfer as "the most vexing issue" that the legislature has dealt with for several sessions.
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"We keep hearing over and over again that transfer is the issue that constituents complain the most about," Paredes said.
Texas' community colleges play a key role in the state's larger college completion picture. Nearly three-quarters of all Texas students who graduate with a bachelor's degree have some community college credit on their transcripts, according to the Texas Association of Community Colleges. Nationwide, about 38 percent of students who complete college have credit from more than one institution, according to the University of North Georgia's National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students.
After Wednesday's vote, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised West for his years of work on shoring up the state's course transfer system. If enacted, the bill will save Texas college students quite a bit of money, he said.
"This floor has passed off a number of significant bills already in this session that's going to help a number of Texans, and this is one of those bills," he said.