“Anything Goes” in transferring course credits–but should it?

Yesterday, and repeated today, Maine Public Radio had an interesting report on an agreement between the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System to address a widespread complaint among community college students who seek to transfer course credits to one of the seven University System campuses. Often courses taken at one or more of the community college campuses are deemed ineligible for university credit. The reasons are presumably similar to the reasons given to students seeking course credits at UMaine in Orono for courses taken at other UMaine System campuses or at other schools, whether public or private, within the State of Maine or elsewhere in America and even abroad. It is both frustrating and expensive for these students to have to repeat courses they’ve already taken or to substitute different ones. No one can fault them and their families for trying to improve this situation.

However, as I’ve said repeatedly, tuition among the seven UMaine System campuses differs because the flagship Orono campus presumably has superior facilities, more degree programs, more distinguished faculty and staff, etc. I’ve never heard of any of the decision-makers on the Board of Trustees or at the upper level of the System administration call for uniform tuition among the seven campuses.

Meanwhile tuition at the community colleges is much less than that for even the cheapest of the seven university campuses. Ironically, this financial fact of life accounts for the decline of students at the University of Southern Maine in recent years. Many attend Southern Maine Community College and transfer to USM.

Paradoxically, though, the agreement just announced will surely lead to the majority of at least undergraduate courses offered at both the community college system and university system being deemed as equal in content, in intellectual challenge, in toughness, etc. True, the heads of the two systems conceded that some courses MIGHT be difficult to transfer, but they agreed that those “problem courses” will be dealt with and, presumably, greatly reduced in number.

Certainly it is a good idea in principle to ease and to increase transfer credits. But who will decide these matters? In the past, both faculty and expert staff members in the several Orono colleges and presumably in the colleges of the other large System institution, the University of Southern Maine, have had a direct hand in determining which courses transfer and which do not. Given the relentless centralization of administration toward the System and the System’s ¬†insistence on the homogenization of almost everything, save for tuition, it would be foolish to believe that this will continue for much longer.

If, to repeat, community college students deserve every opportunity to transfer course credits to the university system, will any gateway remain intact? And if the traditional gateways are more or less eliminated, why NOT impose uniform tuition among the seven university campuses?

But ask yourselves what would happen if a student athlete at the community college level, or one at any of the other six university campuses, sought to transfer to the Orono varsity hockey or football or baseball or soccer or other teams? If most academic course credits will increasingly be deemed of equal value, why shouldn’t athletic experience and achievement transfer as well? DON’T BE SERIOUS, YOU REPLY, WE ALL KNOW THAT ATHLETES AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL DIFFER WIDELY IN TALENT, DEDICATION, ETC. WE ALL KNOW THAT HIERARCHIES EXIST IN COLLEGIATE ATHLETICS. WHO IN HIS OR HER RIGHT MIND WOULD SUGGEST AUTOMATIC TRANSFERS FROM THESE OTHER SCHOOLS TO THE LEVELS OF UMAINE ATHLETICS?

When, though, it comes to academic transfers, “anything goes.” What does that tell us?