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Some colleges' credits don't easily transfer

Do your homework before you switch

Monday, January 4, 2010 - 10:38 am

The only thing worse than losing a research paper in college is losing credits. And the excuse, “My dog ate it,” just doesn't cut it in those situations.

So what do you do?

The answer: Do your homework beforehand. Many times, transferring is as simple as making sure the accreditation matches up between schools. It could save you a serious amount of time - and money.

Why transfer?

In a lot of cases, students plan out transfers before they even graduate from high school. For example, it may be a cost saver to attend Ivy Tech Community College for two years and then transfer to IPFW to finish the work for a degree.

Sometimes, though, transfers can be forced, like when a campus closes - as Taylor University Fort Wayne did earlier this year - and a student must find a new school.

Regardless of the situation, students need to talk to the receiving institution. In some cases, agreements are already in place to make transferring easy, but sometimes accreditations do not match up, meaning transfers are rare - or even impossible.

“The transfer of credits is always up to the receiving institution,” said IPFW Admissions Director Carol Isaacs. “You always need to check with the institution you need to transfer to.”

Where problems can arise

Accreditation is key to any transfer process.

Schools such as IPFW, Ivy Tech, the University of Saint Francis and Indiana Tech all carry the same accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Local proprietary (career-oriented, for-profit) schools such as Brown Mackie College, International Business College, Harrison College and ITT Tech do not.

Brown Mackie, for instance, is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. And because of this difference, credits do not easily transfer - if at all - between Brown Mackie and a school such as IPFW, which has caused frustration among students.

It became such a problem 15 years ago, in fact, that Brown Mackie now requires all students to sign a form at registration that acknowledges the student is aware that credits may not transfer. Many printed materials also carry the same information.

“The college does not imply, promise or guarantee that credits earned in the college will transfer to other institutions, since such determinations are made according to the policies of the receiving institution,” reads the Fort Wayne campus's catalog.

Campus President Jim Bishop says they actually encourage their students not to transfer because the programs there give students career-based education, not a general sampling of information.

About 1,800 students attend Brown Mackie in Fort Wayne, most as nontraditional students. The campus offers four baccalaureate degrees, 11 associate degrees, one diploma program for nursing and seven certificate programs. None of the programs begin with general education classes as in a larger university. In fact, all programs are specifically geared to skills a student needs to obtain a job after graduation.

“We're more about giving you the skills you need for a specific career,” Bishop said.

It doesn't mean transferring is out of the question, Bishop said. Mostly, it's just not recommended.

“What we tell the students is the best (idea) is to call the school,” he said.

How to transfer

Most schools receiving credits have policies in place on whether credits will be received, and how.

At IPFW, credits are accepted from regionally accredited universities, which does not include proprietary schools, and grades must be a C- or higher. Remedial classes are not accepted.

In some cases, IPFW already has agreements set up with other universities, such as Ivy Tech, so students can easily finish their degrees. The rules are similar at other institutions.

Isaacs did say, however, that there are always exceptions to the rules.

“We do consider (other) courses, and then it's up to the department,” she said, explaining that students generally need to provide a syllabus and course descriptions for that particular class so professors can see how that course matches up with the one offered at their university. The professor in that department then determines if the credit will transfer.

The safest way to avoid losing credits is not to transfer. But when the situation is unavoidable or becomes the best option, advance preparation can make the process smoother.