AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Students looking to transfer may soon find it easier to move college credits from one college to another. State lawmakers unanimously passed Senate Bill 25 out of both chambers this week, with the end of the legislative session just days away.
The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for a signature or veto.
Provisions in Senate Bill 25 call on colleges to more clearly identify which course credits would or would not transfer. It initiates universities to work with junior and community colleges to create more course sequences so transfer students have more defined paths to graduation and the workforce.
“These reforms will dramatically increase predictability and consistency for Texas students as it relates to which courses are transferable and applicable towards degree requirements,” the bill’s author, State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said at a Friday morning press conference.
The bipartisan legislation also triggers core curriculum studies by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
“This watershed legislation will help reduce excess credit hours and time to degree, improve transfer pathways for students, and create opportunities for future improvements through collaboration among institutions,” Jacob Fraire, President & CEO, Texas Association of Community Colleges, said. “The bill’s provisions to create recommended course sequencing for all degree programs paves a clear and transparent academic pathway, understandable to students and families.”
Senate Bill 25 also expedites the process for students to file degree paths, requiring prospective transfers to file degree plans after 30 credits instead of 45, and 15 instead of 30 for student who earned dual credit.
“What we don’t want to have happen is they graduate with 30 hours of college credit and they find out that basically 12 of those hours are going to count towards their eventual degree,” Grand Prairie democratic State Rep. Chris Turner, who led the legislation’s passage in the House, said. “That has been time and money not well spent on their part, and it’s inefficiency.”
“By advising students earlier, at 15 hours in terms of what their degree plan should look like and what courses they need to take in order to make sure those courses count towards their eventual degree, you’re going to save in the long run students and parents a lot of money and reduce debt overall.”
Chelsea Snow, a transfer student who started at Austin Community College and completed her degree at Southwestern University, was elated to learn that these changes were on the way to becoming a reality.
“(Community college) provided me with the opportunity to learn and study skills, to understand what it means to be a student, and ultimately find out where I wanted to transfer to,” Snow, who earned her degree in 2014, said.
When Snow transferred after one year, all of her credits transferred with her. Many of classmates were not as lucky.
“(Colleges are) looking for people that want to transfer and want to move onto these four-year universities, but you’re making it impossible for them when you’re saying, ‘sorry the 24 credits that you invested your hard time and your money, they are not valid here.’ To me that doesn’t make sense,” she explained.
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Chairman Raymund Paredes said cooperation between two-year colleges and four-year institutions needs to increase and hopes Senate Bill 25 bridges the gap.
“We need community colleges and universities to amp up their counseling and advising and make sure students know what their responsibilities are in making sure that all the courses will transfer and count towards a degree,” Paredes said.
University of Texas System Chancellor James Milliken agreed with Paredes’ notion.
“As we continue to grow in population and degree requirements go up, the education attainment rates in Texas have to increase significantly,” Milliken said Friday. “The way we are going to do that in the years ahead is with better and more cooperation among our sectors, in particular the community colleges and the institutions, and the four-year institutions.”
Turner said the legislation was a priority of House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. The office of the leader of the Texas Senate, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, tweeted support for the effort on Friday.
The legislation is part of the state’s plan to have 60% of Texans ages 25-34 to earn a certificate or degree by the year 2030 to meet workforce goals.
“We are making headway, but we are not there yet,” Turner said. “We are around 42% or 43% right now, so we’ve got about 10 years to make up that difference.”
“The average student with an associates degree will have 23 semester credit hours that won’t transfer to their four-year degree, and that translates to almost 2 full semesters really that are not going to count towards that degree,” Turner added. “That is lost time, that is lost money, that is lost earning potential, and those students are having to make up time and take more hours than necessary to achieve their degree.”