As Brooklyn College heads into the heart of a new semester, the struggles for transfer students have been on the administration’s mind.
“This is increasingly a concern if anybody’s paying any attention,” said President Michelle Anderson at the February 6th meeting of the council of administrative policy and the college personnel and budget committee.
The biggest concern regarding transfer students, who, according to BC’s website, makeup close to half the school’s student body, is the question of whether credits from their previous universities will transfer smoothly to Brooklyn College. BC’s Transfer Evaluations Office processes courses from students’ previous schools to fulfill equivalent BC credits. However, faulty or incomplete evaluations often lead to transfer students retaking classes they took at previous schools and face the possibility of wasted time and money, and even delayed graduation.
“I remember speaking to one of my advisors the first couple of days I got here, and saying, ‘But I took this class,’” said Gloria Cruz, a transfer student majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. “The same things I learned here I learned there.”
Some years ago, Cruz lost most of her credits moving from Utica College, a private institution, to LaGuardia Community College, a CUNY. Two and a half years ago, she transferred to Brooklyn College to find, again, that most of the credits from her last college had not transferred.
“I pretty much started all over here with the same classes,” she said.
The transfer credit page on BC’s website promises that: “All courses taken for credit at an undergraduate CUNY college with a passing grade of D- or higher will be accepted for credit at Brooklyn College, regardless of whether a specific equivalency exists.” The Journalism and Media Studies details page on the website, however, maintains that 36 out of 42 credits required for the major must be completed at Brooklyn College. Cruz had to retake journalism classes to fulfill the residency requirement.
“The transfer credits system here is fucked,” said Chris Collins, a transfer student majoring in Anthropology. “It is messed up.”
Collins only went to SUNY Potsdam for a year before transferring to Brooklyn College, but when most of his classes were given an inaccurate equivalency, he took initiative to have the mishandled courses re-evaluated.
To have classes re-evaluated, transfers must present course descriptions for classes in question to the head of the department. After approving descriptions, the head signs off on a re-evaluation document, which the student then submits to the Transfer Evaluations Office.
The re-evaluation process heaps some responsibility onto department advisors.
“Some…like Chris, have very particular academic circumstances that should be dealt with by the department—with the workload of chairs and other faculty and administrators,” said Professor Jillian Cavanaugh, head of the Anthropology department. “I feel strongly that departments should be the ones who are able to establish course equivalencies, with the support of the Transfer Office, which does so much of the heavy lifting in organizing how that happens.”
But Collins wants to know why so many of his courses were mishandled.
“Why aren’t they communicating?” he asked, referring to BC and Potsdam’s Transfer Offices. “Why is it up to me to track down every single department head?”
His problem is larger than the two schools. Credits from non-CUNY institutions, like Potsdam, are channeled to BC’s office through the New York State Board of Regents or even by a regional accrediting commission. A larger state processing system leaves room for mistakes.
“I ended up spending two whole semesters at a community college just for half of my credits not to apply to any CUNY pathways,” said Kelly Bannon, a Journalism and Media Studies major and a transfer student from Suffolk Community College, a SUNY. “Just an entire waste of time and money.”
Cruz hopes to graduate next fall, after three and a half years at BC and seven and a half in college in total. So far, she has loved BC and her program, but regrets having to retake classes.
“It’s a waste of my money,” she said. “I have to pay back the three years at a private institution, plus what I’m taking now. That’s money I have to pay back, and I’m not seeing any of it because I have to retake courses.”
While the college’s administration has not unveiled definite plans to tackle the transfer credit question, it is clear the issue is on the school’s mind, from multiple references at the Feb. 6th meeting, to a presentation on credit issues last October.
“Overall, I think the transfer evaluation system is currently in transition towards a more centralized structure to streamline it,” said Professor Cavanaugh.
The Transfer Evaluations Office was not available for comment.