It’s that time of year when kids and adults alike dress up to emulate fictional characters. For one evening, dreams become realities, nightmares come to life, and knocking on strangers’ doors asking for candy is encouraged. However, despite the crowds of witches, zombies, ghosts, and vampires, no one dresses up as a college drop-out. You will not see people putting on costumes as students struggling to make ends meet while trying to earn a degree, but this is perhaps the scariest reality of all.
We have heard the calls for higher education reform. We have seen the drafts of proposed legislation. While many of the solutions being offered require comprehensive change, there are opportunities for colleges and universities across the United States to make an impact now. Numerous articles lament the low number of students who begin their academic career and actually earn a degree. Students, much like trick or treaters, often find themselves at more than one institution. Life changes require them to find those programs that best meet their needs at the time. The nightmare occurs when students discover, often too late, that the credits they earned at their previous institution do not transfer.
While it is true that the acceptance and application of credits is up to the receiving institution, colleges and universities have a chance to put students first without sacrificing academic integrity. Institutions need comprehensive transfer credit policies that look beyond the obvious indicators, like related subject matter content and minimum grade requirements, and take into consideration individual students’ academic history. Higher education focuses on encouraging individual student instruction, but this approach is often overlooked during the admissions process when many students need it most.
Putting students first is more than just a fun catch phrase that is integrated into institutional effectiveness and strategic planning efforts. It is an opportunity to re-evaluate current processes and procedures that can make a big difference without tapping into limited financial resources. Institutions need to work with students to proactively identify those courses that can be applied to their program of study and avoid having students take courses that contain content already mastered. Students need pathways that focus on removing the tricks and result in successfully earning degrees without unnecessary interruptions. In the end, both the institution and student benefit from the treat of truly putting students first by allowing them to achieve their educational goals.
This Halloween, seek out transfer students and help them move a little closer to making their dreams become a reality, instead of a nightmare.