Luther considers policy revision for transfer students

Karl Nycklemoe, Staff Writer

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The Academic Planning Committee will lead discussions regarding Luther College’s current policies towards transfer students starting in Spring 2018.

An example of a transfer agreement policy is at Grinnell College. In 2012, Grinell College entered into a transfer agreement with the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). This agreement encourages qualified students to apply to transfer to Grinnell at the end of their two-year associate’s degree in order to receive a four-year bachelor’s degree. Students still complete their bachelor’s degree in four years, the only difference is that the first two years are completed at the community college.

Luther College is only in a pre-discussion phase regarding its transfer policies, meaning that there is no promise that such an agreement will occur. Registrar and Assistant to the Dean for Advising Kristin Swanson, who is one of the faculty members heading these discussions, said that a transfer policy is an area of interest for the college.

“Among the many topics related to Luther’s institutional mission and identity that are of interest to faculty — and which emerged during some of the Strategic Planning discussions that were held in the spring 2017 semester — are the recruiting of and providing of a successful transition for transfer students,” Swanson said. “The faculty have just begun a broad conversation to learn more about transfer agreements — led by the Course and Program Review sub-committee of the Academic Planning Committee — with plans for faculty discussion in the spring 2018 semester.”

Swanson said the fact that this discussion will occur in the spring does not guarantee any particular outcome. Students from community colleges and other accredited institutions can, as they have in the past, transfer to Luther if they are qualified.

Currently, just because students can be accepted to Luther with transfer credits does not mean courses automatically count towards general requirements or those within a major. According to the transfer course approval form, there are several limitations as to what a course can transfer. For example, courses can only transfer if a student received a C- grade or higher. Community college courses will only transfer at the 100 or 200 levels. Additionally, for a course to count towards a major or minor it must be approved by the department head.

While these policies are aligned with that of other liberal arts colleges, some transfer students are frustrated with these policies, even if they did not come from a community college. Rozlyn Paradis (‘18) said that when she transferred between her first and sophomore year, it was difficult for her to transfer courses.

“I had to fight for my classes to be accepted,” Paradis said. “I came from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a lot of my classes didn’t get accepted [initially]. I had to bring the syllabus for the course and in some situations, write mini-essays for why I thought [the course] would work out [as transferable].”

Jeffrey Lackmann (’18) transferred in the middle of his first year and commented on his experience with the policy. While he took an introductory biology course at Northland College, it did not transfer as comparable to either of the Biology 151 or 152 courses offered at Luther College.

“I wanted to get out of taking [Biology] 151 and 152, as I had taken something similar at Northland and petitioned [Luther’s biology] department head,” Lackmann said. “But they did not accept [the course], so I had to take the class over again. It depends on the department on what they determine as equivalencies.”

With discussions over transfer policies approaching, questions are being raised about how Luther deals with transfer students and in transferring courses and credit. Yet, it appears discussions will focus on more than just agreements and courses. It will also focus on student success. Associate Professor of Social Work Britt Rhodes notes that while there should be more than one path to the liberal arts degree, it is important to consider more than just how a course can transfer, but how well a transfer student can succeed at Luther.

“I think that’s what the question should be, not just if we can get [transfer students from community colleges] through in four years, two of them being at Luther,” Rhodes said. “But, can [transfer students] be successful in their time here? That’s what I think [the faculty] wants for all students, transfer students or not.”

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