House OKs credit transfers measure

BY SHAWN GUDE | APRIL 20, 2009 7:30 AM

Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, concedes the credit-transfer experiences of students such as UI junior Danni Huss are common.

“Everything went great,” said Huss, who graduated from Iowa Central Community College with an associate’s degree. “I didn’t have any problems.”

Still, the Republican lawmaker and Muscatine Community College professor is one of the main champions of a House bill that looks to make the credit-transfer process among Iowa community colleges and state universities a little easier.

While state Board of Regents universities have numerous so-called articulation agreements with community colleges, the bill would formalize those agreements, attempt to foster more cooperation among school officials, and increase available information about the credit-transfer process.

Although bad experiences constitute the “extreme minority,” Kaufmann said, he wanted to avoid transfer situations in which students are “caught in the middle of a turf battle” between recalcitrant professors and community colleges.

In such situations the “student is the one who’s going to lose,” he said.

UI spokesman Steve Parrott said both the UI and the state Board of Regents support the legislation, despite existing agreements with community colleges.

“We already have articulation agreements with community colleges but are happy to improve on those relationships,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Some familiar with the process were incredulous about the need for the proposal, however.

“I don’t think [students] have any trouble as long as they plan ahead,” said Laura Riley, the coordinator of Kirkwood Community College’s Advising and Transfer Center. “It’s a very smooth process, as long as they have communication on both sides.”

While she acknowledged community colleges could strengthen the process with regent schools, “the nuts and bolts are the same,” she said.

Similarly, Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, was skeptical about enacting legislation in an area he said community colleges and state universities could handle themselves.

“I have not seen the legislation, but my feeling is that there’s already been progress and forward momentum on that issue,” said Quirmbach, an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University.

Kaufmann agreed but argued the process needs to be expedited. The bill also symbolically challenges both state universities and community colleges to bring the quality of their classes in line with each other, Kaufmann contended.

The measure was a late addition to the hopper, appearing fewer than two weeks ago. But the bill was crafted with strong bipartisan participation — Kaufmann repeatedly lauded House Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Des Moines, for his role in the process — and it unanimously passed the House late last week.

The Senate should take up the bill shortly, where Kaufmann expects fellow lawmakers to approve the measure with “some resistance.”

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