What are you doing this summer?
Like many students, you may decide to take a summer course to broaden your horizons, knock off a few prerequisites for an AU course or just up credits that you need to graduate on time. Many college students will choose to take these courses back home and save some money by commuting and paying less per credit hour. There are other perks, too, such as interning back home, hanging out with friends or working during your summer vacation.
Of course, in keeping with AU’s rigorous academic standards, you need to make sure that AU will accept the course as part of your degree program. That’s when you hit the wall: There’s no acceptable school near you.
Regulations governing transfer credit for matriculated students specify that only colleges that are accredited for granting bachelor’s degrees or higher are eligible. Or in plain English: no community colleges. Yet, for the majority of AU students, the closest institution of higher learning is a two-year community college. The reason for this exclusion is due to no “rising standards.”
On its face, that makes sense. AU is a challenging academic environment, and the degrees that we grant should reflect that. Yet, the higher standards argument starts to fall apart because AU will accept these very same credits from transfer students.
If you took History 101 at Haney Community College and then transferred to AU, we would count that as a course. In fact, for transfer students we would take up to 60 credits from a community college, which is half of their college degree.
Yet, for a current AU student, we accept none. Simply put: The course is good enough before arriving at AU, but not good enough once you’re here. The course and the school did not change, just your status within AU. This discrepancy in how we treat the course doesn’t quite make sense.
It seems unfair to automatically exclude all community colleges. Community colleges are sometimes looked at disdainfully - they are viewed as sub-par, an extension of high school. However, this view is elitist at best and often unfounded. It is entirely possible to find a rigorous introduction to microeconomics at Herkimer County Community College in New York as it is in our own College of Arts and Sciences. At the same time, it’s easy to find an exceptional course detailing Iroquois culture at Oneida Community College, also in New York, and impossible to find one here at AU.
AU should not determine if a course should be allowed merely because of the institution where it is being offered; instead, it should make the decision on credit equivalence based on the content, merit and rigor of the course. By keeping the credit equivalence on a case-by-case basis, we would not dilute the caliber of an AU education. Rather, it would have a number of positive effects for the university. It would reduce student debt load at the completion of the bachelor’s degree, increase our percentage of on-time graduations and, perhaps most importantly, increase the knowledge base of students. Yet, the option for most of our students is to take an online course through AU, enroll in a four-year college back home or to stay here in D.C. and take a summer course at AU, all the while paying the huge cost of living in the District.
Let’s do something positive for students - let’s be consistent with our policy and reconsider our double standard on community college credit.
Peter Brusoe is a doctoral student in the School of Public Affairs and the campus affairs columnist for The Eagle.