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Proposal to Ease Transfers Stirs Controversy at CUNY

Monday, May 02, 2011

CUNY students Cory Provost (left) and Kevin McKessey say it should be easier to transfer (Beth Fertig)

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.

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Comments [7]

Manfred Philipp from Lehman College

This article makes it sound like CUNY's faculty oppose making transfer between colleges easier. The opposite is the case. Transfer should be made easier by enhancing the software and web sites that students use in the transfer process, not by reducing required foreign language, science, and history courses at the senior colleges.

See http://cunyufs.org/A for a list of faculty organizations and resolutions that are opposed to, or ask for delays in the administration's proposals.

May. 02 2011 11:16 PM
Kevin Sailor

It should be pointed out that as an associate degree holder the student featured in this piece would have been exempt from any General Education requirements at a senior college. One of the goals of faculty organizations has been to demonstrate the limited value of VC Logue's proposal in solving the real concerns of students

May. 02 2011 09:39 PM
Sandi Cooper from City U of New York

It is interesting that this story features the positions of the Central Administration and the student body in apparent opposition to the liberal arts and sciences specialists who want CUNY students to be as well prepared as Harvard grads, even though they start in very different places.

Faculty opposition to reducing general education clearly states that the transfer problems -- real -- need to be solved in a manner that does NOT undermine the quality of our degrees. We struggle against public perceptions that the University is for basket cases and have moved the conversation away from that unfair image.

Now we are dealing with proposals that play right into that game.

Sandi Cooper, Chair
University Faculty Senate

May. 02 2011 12:01 PM
Massimo Pigliucci from Lehman College

Nice article, Beth! A couple of additional points, however.

First, CUNY's administration's argument that this is somehow going to solve the transfer students problem is specious, as detailed here: http://bit.ly/jsz31w

This is an issue that the colleges have been working on for some time, chiefly by articulating bi-lateral transfer agreements between community and senior colleges, the way it should be done.

Second, the administration is grossly interfering with faculty governance and, quite frankly, will end up - if successful - in dramatically reducing the dynamism of the CUNY system, as well as the quality of education our students get.

Finally, I think a more in-depth commentary on this story will appear this afternoon here: http://bit.ly/lmg5t7

cheers,
Massimo

May. 02 2011 12:00 PM
Scott Dexter from Brooklyn

How will lowering the number of general education requirements help students who are having trouble transferring management, marketing, or music classes? The fact that CUNY hasn't solved the administrative problems of transfer seems to have little to do with general education. See, for example, Professor Martell's analysis of an early report on the transfer problem (http://bit.ly/MartellResponse)

May. 02 2011 11:23 AM
Scott Dexter from Brooklyn

How will lowering the number of general education requirements help students who are having trouble transferring management, marketing, or music classes? The fact that CUNY hasn't solved the administrative problems of transfer seems to have little to do with general education. See, for example, Professor Martell's analysis of an early report on the transfer problem (http://bit.ly/MartellResponse)

May. 02 2011 11:22 AM
Matthew E. Moore

This gives a very oversimplified picture of this controversy, and seriously understates the extent of faculty opposition and the threat to academic quality posed by the central administration’s proposals. See the many resolutions in opposition to the proposal posted here (http://bitly.com/eZXMf2), including a letter from the national organization of Phi Beta Kappa. An extended critique can be found here: http://bitly.com/m8IrQN.

May. 02 2011 08:12 AM

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