The University of Maine board of trustees met in January to discuss, among other things, the implementation of an intra-system credit transfer project that was originally approved at the board’s November meeting last year.
According to James Page, University of Maine System chancellor, the project’s goal is to improve the college credit transfer process so that students will have an easier time moving among Maine’s public universities and between the Maine Community College System and the UMS.
The board has since set up a Credit Transfer Steering Committee to help reach this goal and to establish reliable and robust credit transfer practices to make it easier for students moving between Maine’s public universities. These practices will be based on four systemwide credit transfer best practice initiatives, which have already been successfully implemented at many other public universities and community colleges nationwide.
These four best practice initiatives are as follows: 1) a higher focus on developing electronic communication tools; 2) easier transferability within general education courses; 3) greater articulation between major-to-major curricula and ease of transfer between universities; and 4) the initiation of a prior-learning assessment.
According to Dahlia Lynn, associate provost for academic affairs and member of the newly established committee, the four best practice initiatives are exactly where the committee should start.
“It’s important that we develop a comprehensive approach toward a credit transfer model and that we talk about where the alignment isn’t happening and why,” she said. Their mission is to make college more affordable, easier to access and more likely to be completed.
The development of these electronic communication tools will allow for greater cohesion and flexibility among Maine’s public universities and make it easier for students to plan their classes before transferring. The development of a web-based transfer portal is scheduled to be available for the start of the fall semester.
General education courses have been a highlighted problem for students transferring between Maine’s public universities in the past. Lynn noted that she and the other members of the steering committee have traveled to all seven universities in Maine. “It was one of the most rewarding and interesting things we did,” said Lynn. While there, they asked both students and faculty about the difficulty of transferring credits, especially concerning 100 and 200 level general education courses. “We found the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Faculty members across the state will conduct two summit meetings in April and May to discuss general education outcomes and the similarities and differences between degree-specific curricula. Their goal is for transferring students deciding to remain in their major to have an easier time completing their degree without having to take the same courses over.
The steering committee will implement a prior learning assessment for both traditional and nontraditional students who are either starting or returning to higher education. It will assess the skills and training that students may have from professional experiences to determine their competency in order to place them within classes of the correct level.
Rosa Redonett, chief officer of student affairs for the chancellor and member of the committee, also stressed the importance of the committee’s work in transfer student success. She stated that the committee plans on “making [the process of transferring] as seamless as it can possibly be.” She urged any students thinking of transferring to speak with the school of their interest rather than trying to do it on their own. While there, they can find the resources and the people responsible for making their transfer process smooth and successful.
The committee plans on developing a comprehensive transfer credit model in order to aid with student success and financial support. Their plans involve implementing orientations focused on transfer students, including transfer year orientated courses (akin to Entry Year Experience courses offered to first year students at USM) into the curriculum and improving the transfer experience as a whole at a systemwide level by the end of the spring semester in 2014.