New tool aids college transfers

May 13, 2008 3:16:34 PM PDT
Pennsylvania college students who want to transfer to other schools in the state have a new tool intended make the process easier. Beginning in the fall, students can use the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center Web site, also known as PA TRAC, to find out how their course credits will transfer from one school to another and better plan the transition, said Kathleen Shaw, the state's deputy secretary for postsecondary and higher education.

Many public and private schools have individually established transfer processes under voluntary arrangements known as "articulation agreements" that spell out which courses count toward a degree at another school.

But the lack of a statewide transfer system has occasionally frustrated students who find that their transfer schools will not accept all their current credits - forcing them to repeat some courses, Shaw said.

"PA TRAC will save students and their families time, money and anxiety, and it will create a clear track to the college degree," Shaw said Tuesday.

All the state's 14 community colleges and 14 state-owned universities are required to participate in the system. Four other schools are participating voluntarily: Lincoln University, Lackawanna College, Seton Hill University and St. Francis University.

All participating schools must guarantee that students can easily transfer at least 30 credit hours.

The Web site was created under a 2006 state law establishing a statewide credit-transfer system. Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, began pushing for the measure after learning that a volunteer for his 2004 election campaign could not transfer all her community-college credits to a state university.

"By not allowing students to take their hard-earned credits with them ... we were adding a tax on their tuition," Shapiro said. "We were prolonging their experience in college and making it harder for them to get out into the work force."

State System of Higher Education officials hope the new system will help improve the universities' four-year graduation rates, which averaged 32 percent for the class of 2007, said Peter Garland, executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. Transfers make up roughly 25 percent of incoming students each fall in the 14 state-run schools, Garland said.

As older residents who are considered "nontraditional" students increase among the ranks of the college-bound, states are devoting more attention to streamlining the college transfer process, said Barmak Nassirian, spokesman for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, based in Washington, D.C.

"The challenge for us as a nation is, how do you aggregate credit and prior learning into credentials, and how do you do it with reliability, without compromising the credentials?" Nassirian said.

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On the Net:

Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center: http://www.patrac.org ---

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