Beth Fertig is WNYC’s Contributing Editor for Education. She previously covered politics, which included City Hall during the Giuliani administration, and the U.S. Senate campaigns of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. She also covered transportation and infrastructure.
Proposal to Ease Transfers Stirs Controversy at CUNY
Monday, May 02, 2011
The City University is trying to solve the longtime problem of students having to repeat classes when their credits don't transfer — but the proposal is sharply opposed by some faculty.
"If the receiving college doesn't have that discipline at all there won't be a match," Provost Alexandra Logue said. "Or somebody might judge that one course is not the same as another, then there's not a match."
No match means the student has to take a similar class all over again at the new campus and is why many CUNY students wind up graduating with well over the 120 credits they need.
The problem comes up frequently when students transfer from one of six CUNY community colleges to a senior college, especially if they haven't yet earned an associate's degree.
The proposed solution is to lower the number of liberal arts, or general education, courses required outside a student's major to 42. Some senior colleges require as many as 60 credits, or half of all courses, in general education.
Although faculty members want to make it easier for students to transfer, many oppose lowering the number of general education credits. Terrence Martell, a professor of finance at Baruch College, said even business students should take philosophy or science.
"We want that because we want them to, trial by fire, to succeed in something outside of the narrow, technical areas we teach in," he said. "Because we know if they don't have it they're not going to make the cut" in a workforce that values critical thinking skills.
But some students say that's just not practical.
Kevin McKessey, 27, is a senior at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn who's on the university student senate. He said he had to make up credits at his current school after earning his associates degree at Kingsborough college — costing him time and money.
"I had to take a management internship class when I took a business internship class, which dealt with management, also," he said. "And there was a marketing class that I had to take over," as well as a class in music that wouldn't transfer.
McKessey said students also have trouble getting financial aid when they have to repeat a class.
Cory Provost, 26, is another member of the student senate who wants to change the policy. He's about to complete his master's degree in urban policy at Brooklyn College and said he doesn't buy the argument that academics will suffer if CUNY makes it easier for credits to transfer from one school to another. More credits, he argues, "doesn't mean higher quality."
But members of the faculty senate, including Martell of Baruch and Modern Languages Professor Francisco Soto, of the College of Staten Island, worry their schools will lose their individual characters if CUNY lowers the number of required general education credits to 42. Baruch's current requirement is 60, and the College of Staten Island requires 58, Soto said.
He said 12 of those credits are in languages, meaning the school "would have to cut certain areas of knowledge we think are essential."
They also worry more students will transfer from community to senior colleges without earning degrees first, setting them up for failure. The community colleges are known for taking a high number of students who need remedial courses in math, writing and English. Faculty propose simplifying the transfer process with better computer systems and by more aggressively informing students about the requirements.
CUNY Provost Logue, however, argues the proposal is aimed at strengthening academics by assuring that the credits that transfer are aligned from one campus to the other. And she said faculty at each campus will play a role in fleshing out the details.
The CUNY Board of Trustees is planning to vote on the plan at the end of June.