Legislation could hurt reputation of universities

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Traditional and non-profit universities fear their reputations may be crushed by a bill being debated in Congress. The College Access and Opportunity Act, introduced in May, would make it easier for students to transfer academic credits from fast upstart, for-profit schools, like DeVry University or ITT Technical Institute, to more traditional universities or non-profit colleges, like the University of Virginia or American University.

The legislation is part of the umbrella Higher Education Act, which governs the $70 billion in funding the federal government grants annually to post-secondary schools. The act also sets guidelines for how colleges deal with the government and student financial aid.

Traditional universities are concerned that by allowing students to transfer credits from for-profit schools, their academic reputations and academic standards may be tarnished.

“Congressional involvement in transfer of credit issues is unwise because these decisions go to the heart of institutional integrity and ability to shape educational programs,” said Dr. James Davis, president of Shenandoah University, at a congressional hearing on the bill.

According to hoover.com, a business information Web site, for-profit schools have experienced a “steady revenue growth” in the past several years. The institutes offer a degree alternative and education aimed at non-traditional students, including older, working or career-focused adults.

“There is a problem when schools serving some of the neediest students are treated like a second class,” Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) said in a press release. “There is a problem when the federal government creates incentives for schools to raise tuition or leave inner cities. And there is a problem when innovation is stifled through outdated regulations.”

College students say this issue is important to them because many of them take summer classes outside of their home university during summer because it saves them money.

“I think math is math,” said Ashley Turner, a sophomore at George Washington University. “Just because I take it somewhere else and try to transfer the credits, it doesn’t mean the basic concepts are different.”

Other students said they thought that it was unfair being able to transfer credits. “It’s illegitimate,” said Barry Cardin, a senior at George Washington University.

“People just take the classes at these low budget places to get easy As for classes that would be harder at their four-year institutions. Those who go to and get two years there and then transfer to a school like GW get an unfair financial and academic breeze.”

At a congressional hearing in June, witnesses said proprietary schools enroll a larger share of minority, low-income and non-traditional students than other schools, and should be treated more equitably under current law.

“The bill’s provisions to require that public disclosure of institutional transfer practices by both institutions and the accrediting agencies will assist in reducing arbitrary transfer decisions and will give students critical information as they plan for higher education,” said Arthur Keiser, past chairman of Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology, a non-profit independent accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of Education since 1967.

Keiser is also chancellor of the Keiser Collegiate System, which is composed of 16 campuses in Florida. He cited a specific example of a recent Keiser Institute graduate who was forced to re-take two years of classes in order to be accepted into a master’s program at Nova Southeastern University.

“Receiving institutions should not be permitted to deny the transfer of credits based on the transferring institution’s type of accreditation,” Keiser said.

The College Access and Opportunity Act also acts for the reauthorization of Title IV, which deals with financial aid and reducing loan costs for students and graduates.

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