As lawmakers in Austin work out details of a plan to fix the state's college transfer process, two North Texas institutions are looking to ease that process between their schools.
The University of Texas at Arlington and the Dallas County Community College District signed an agreement Friday that they say will remove roadblocks for students looking to transfer from the community college to the university.
The deal is a reworked version of an articulation agreement the two schools already had in place. Among other changes, the new agreement allows for better advising for students in specific disciplines while they're still enrolled at the community college.
The new agreement also allows for so-called reverse transfer. That means when a student transfers from the community college to UTA before earning an associate's degree and then completes the associate's degree requirements at UTA, the university can transfer those credits back to the community college. The community college would then award the student an associate's degree while the student continues to pursue a bachelor's degree at the university.
Joe May, chancellor of the seven-campus community college district, said the agreement is designed to help remove obstacles that trip up students who come to the community college as the first step toward a bachelor's degree.
"Any barrier that we remove along the way increases the chances that they'll be successful," May said.
The renewal comes at a time when state lawmakers are looking to make it easier for students to transfer from community colleges to four-year schools without losing course credits along the way. Each year, more than $50 million in taxpayer money is wasted on course credits that students earn at community colleges, but then lose when they transfer to four-year universities.
Problems with the state's course transfer system are particularly worrisome, because Texas relies more heavily than most states on its community colleges to move its college students toward their bachelor's degrees. 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.
Last month, the Texas Senate unanimously approved a bill designed to make sure students lose fewer credits when they transfer from a community college to a four-year school. 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. It would also require that students file a degree plan after completing 30 hours of credit. High school students enrolled in dual enrollment courses would be required to file degree plans after completing 15 hours.
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The bill would also require four-year institutions to submit annual reports to the Texas Coordinating Board for Higher Education showing any courses they don't accept for transfer credit.
The bill was referred to the House Higher Education Committee, where it awaits a hearing.
Troy Johnson, UTA's vice president for enrollment management, said the agreement between the university and the community college district makes up a big part of the state's credit transfer picture. UTA has the third-largest transfer student population in the country, according to a recent report by U.S. News & World Report. Dallas County is one of the biggest community college districts in the country and one of UTA's most common transfer partners, he said.
"For us to get it right makes a big difference in the overall picture," he said.