Six major higher education groups on Thursday released a set of principles for accepting academic credit during this tumultuous time.

the declaration, written by the American Council on Education and signed by leaders of groups representing public, private, nonprofit, and community colleges, highlights eight practices institutions should follow to best help students navigate the process. transfer credit – which is difficult to negotiate at the best of times – during the coronavirus pandemic.

Students often find that some or more of their academic credits from one college are not accepted when trying to move to another institution, especially if they are trying to move from a two-year college to a college. four-year, or nationally accredited colleges. to those accredited by regional agencies.

At the center of every principle is the recognition that this is an unprecedented time for institutions to respond in unprecedented flexible ways, said Ted Mitchell, President and CEO of ACE. Institutions must also put their students at the center of their decisions and remember that this situation only exacerbates existing inequalities in higher education.

“Institutions are working hard to try to figure this out, and there are a variety of things they need to balance,” Mitchell said. “We thought that it would be useful for these institutions to simply put forward the principles on which we all agree to guide the decision making.”

The declaration calls on institutions to recognize what students are going through; be aware of existing inequalities; provide flexibility for students, staff and faculty; be transparent about their transfer policies; and make their decisions known as soon as possible.

There are concerns that colleges adopting universal pass / fail grading policies could harm students in the long run if those students hope to transfer to another institution or enroll in a graduate program because the pass / fail courses are failures are often not transferred for credit. .

ACE and other organizations are calling that while institutions are more flexible in grading policies, they also be more flexible with admissions and credit policies with their students, Mitchell said.

Timing is also extremely important, he said. ACE predicts that many students will likely study elsewhere and seek to bring this learning back to their home institutions due to the public health pandemic.

“While institutions probably have some time to develop these policies, students and their families are making decisions today about what to do,” Mitchell said. “Students and families need as much information as possible to allay their anxieties and help them make plans. That is why we believe institutions need to tackle this problem now.”

For institutions that are members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, this is especially important.

“Our institutions accept a large part, probably the majority, of community college students who transfer to regional public universities,” said Mildred García, president of the association. “It is important that we are open to flexibility in these new options because of this terrible situation.”

Several states and institutions are already discussing this issue, García said. For example, the Utah Higher Education System recently released a transfer guide to help students see how their current courses will apply to programs at different institutions.

The declaration is not meant to be a warrant, Mitchell said, because every institution is different. But it aims to emphasize the importance of flexibility and compassion during this time.

“There was a general consensus that the process needed to be more transparent, fair, easy to navigate, and that students needed faster decisions regarding the status of their transfer requests,” said Bernard Mair, academic director of the Association of Public and ceding universities. “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the APLU heard from our members that they were addressing this issue as well as many other academic processes and regulations, so we felt it was time to provide some very strong guidance. general rules concerning the transfer of credits. the fact that many campuses were transferring their operations online made it even more important to communicate to students how they might transfer credits. This is not intended to dictate which credits can or should be transferred, but rather a set of high level guidelines that we suggest institutions consider when streamlining their academic processes. “

The transfer dilemma has been a hot topic in higher education for some time, and the realities of COVID-19 may finally shake things up on the issue.

About a third of students try to transfer credits between institutions, Mair said. The average student is also different today than he was a few decades ago; many are older working adults.

“I think it’s entirely possible that institutions would feel more comfortable with a higher degree of flexibility, and I think that would be a good thing,” Mitchell said.

Northern Virginia Community College has a nationally recognized example of a successful transfer partnership with nearby George Mason University. Community college president Anne Kress said it was important to help students, many of whom are now facing multiple crises at once.

“The declaration and unified support for these principles provide a powerful indication that higher education recognizes its responsibility to honor the work done by students facing the uncertainty created by the pandemic,” said Kress. “This statement also makes it clear that the impact of the pandemic is not uniform. Colleges must consider the equity implications of their credit transfer policies.”

As colleges learn throughout the pandemic, Kress hopes they will realize that all institutions can improve to serve students.

“We are talking about higher education as a system: now is the time to start acting as such,” she said. “The central strength of NOVA’s nationally recognized transfer partnership with George Mason University, ADVANCE, is that all credits count when students transfer. Imagine if a guarantee like this extended between institutions across higher education. It would be transformational – and it is possible. “

For today’s students, said García, the stakes are particularly high.

“They are working very hard to be successful in graduate school with so many challenges before the coronavirus even hits,” she said. “I beg the institutions to be as flexible and compassionate as possible while ensuring that they can be successful so that we can educate the new majority.”

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