Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5030

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEVELOPMENT OF A GENERAL EDUCATION CORE OF COURSES TO ALLOW FOR THE SEAMLESS TRANSFER FROM THE REGIONAL COMMUNITY-TECHNICAL COLLEGE SYSTEM TO THE CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM AND THE UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT.

Vote Date:

2/21/2012

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

2/14/2012

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

To establish a common core of General Education courses of at least 30 credits that would be accepted throughout the State Community College and Connecticut State University system and the University of Connecticut. This would allow students to transfer from one institution to another without needing to duplicate similar courses, saving money and expediting degree completion.

SUBSTITUTION:

The substitute language includes faculty members, duly elected faculty senate members, from community colleges, CSU System, and UCONN in the development and implementation of a general education core of courses.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Mr. Robert A Kennedy, President, Board of Regents for Higher Education

Submitted written testimony in support. He provided statistics and graphs tracking the movement of students from one institute of higher education to another.

What the numbers show is that more students transfer into Community Colleges from other institutions, both 2-year or 4-year, than out of Community Colleges into 4 year schools. He noted that sending institutions are merely the last institution a student attended and sometimes the interim between attending is many years.

For this reason, he says, the seamless transfer credits need to go not only from 2-year to 4-year schools and vice versa, but also between different Community Colleges. He suggests that widening the pathways for student transfers should be viewed from the perspective of a smoothly paved 2-way street.

Dr. Louise Feroe, Board of Regents for Higher Education, ConnSCU:

Testified in support of the bill; citing a current student population that is more mobile, moving among all of the various educational institutions, more specifically from UCONN and the Connecticut State Universities to community colleges. Dr. Feroe echoes Mr. Kennedy's concerns with regard to streamlining the transfer process. Dr. Feroe shows the progress that has been made so far, with regard to transfer and articulation agreements with Connecticut community colleges. Dr. Feroe highlights topics to be addressed by the newly created Academic and Student Affairs Committee and details the current draft proposal to create a transfer associate degree for ConnSCU and how it would work for teachers, administrators, and students.

She listed some recent efforts of the BOR regarding transfer and articulation agreements:

A Transfer Compact agreement has been implemented with committee oversight including representatives from the Community College and CT State University systems

All CT Community College common courses in general education have been reviewed

A list of common courses that are transferable to the CSU's has been created and is currently available to students

A common core of subjects equaling about 30 credits has been identified that could lead to an associates degree in Liberal Arts and could transfer in its entirety to the State universities.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Dr. Thomas R. Burkholder, Professor of Chemistry, Central Connecticut State University:

Testified in support of the bill, however, he has concerns over the bill's timeline of implementation. He gives the example of what his university did to implement a new general education curriculum, as a way to compare the current proposed timeline to this example. He notes that they measured their program against programs from 10 comparable universities. CCSU conducted a campus-wide survey, created a blog, provided interviews with the school newspaper, and interacted with the student government. The proposal still has to move through several committees within the university before it receives final approval.

He noted that the problems CCSU had with transfer students tended to be with 4-year private institutions and out-of-state schools but not with CT Community Colleges, with whom Central has clear articulation agreements.

In his verbal testimony he warned against making the new common core courses “a system of boxes to be checked off” and encouraged flexibility in the courses. Central's approach is to be more concerned with the outcomes of the general education courses than the specific content.

Mr. Steve Cohen, President of the Connecticut Congress of Community Colleges and Professor, Norwalk Community College:

Testified in support of the bill, supporting seamless transfer and feels that opposition to the bill stems from a desire, on the part of faculty and administers, to maintain local control. The professor argues that there is not much difference between different common core classes among the 12 different institutions in the state.

He urged everyone to put the students first. He urged that the schools focus on the learning that students need to produce the desired outcomes and to avoid taking a parochial view.

Mr. Bob Fernandez, Legislative Director, Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges:

Testified in support of the bill, citing how Eastern Connecticut State University, Manchester Community College, Three Rivers Community College, and Quinebaug Community College have had strong articulation agreements in force for several years. Mr. Fernandez supports seamless transfer because it allows students to affordably and quickly finish a baccalaureate degree. This is especially important, in light of the changes to Pell grants, in which a student loses Pell eligibility after six years of education.

Lawrence P. Grasso, Accounting Professor, Central CT State University: Submitted written testimony in support. He believes creation of a common general education core could reduce costs in time and money for students in achieving their degrees without sacrificing quality if the plan is well executed.

He suggests that the common general education core should be structured in two tracks—a Pre- Baccalaureate track and an Applied Associates track. He discusses what the general education courses in preparation for an Accounting degree might look like.

He described the Pre- Baccalaureate track vs. the Applied Associate track as it relates to Accounting degrees. The immediate drawback of this approach is that the Pre- Baccalaureate would lack the technical skills to be employable and the Applied Associates would have a longer path if they choose to pursue their Accounting BA. He suggests that rather than a one-to-one mapping of course equivalencies the universities could design general education courses focusing on about five skill and knowledge categories. This would allow each school to maintain their unique perspective and identity within a common framework.

He believes that the problems to be faced in creating a common core are not insurmountable, however, he feels that the more major path courses that are excluded from the core the more difficult it will be to serve the needs of both Pre- Baccalaureate and Applied Associates students.

Dr. George Kain, Associate Professor of Justice and Law, Western Connecticut State University:

Supports the bill, but cautions that the process and objective of this legislation is complex and will need to include faculty members. He proposes that an ad hoc committee be created, comprised of Gen Ed faculty that would report to the Board of Regents. He also stressed that the “aggressive” timeframe would not allow for proper implementation.

Dr. Elizabeth King Keenan, Professor and BSW Coordinator at Southern Connecticut State Universities:

Supports the bill, but itemizes three issues. From her experience, she finds that most students don't have a “seamless transfer” when they changed their major or lack the skills to succeed in higher level courses. She highlights the creation of a Liberal Education Program (LEP) at Southern as a good example because it focuses on competencies versus specified course load. Second, she highlights the importance of consultation with the student before they come to the institution and throughout their academic experience to gain the skills and courses needed to complete their degree. Thirdly, Dr. Keenan notes that high school programs need to more adequately prepare the student before college.

Dr. M.J. Gerald Lesley, Professor & Chair of Chemistry, Southern Connecticut State University:

Submitted written testimony stating that he favors having a “seamless transfer” policy. He worries, however, that the integrity of Sothern's programs might suffer if the core courses do not meet the same high standards of their school's current freshman and sophomore courses.

He offered scientific writing proficiency as an example of a skill that is nurtured from freshman year at Southern. The school's excellent reputation based on their demanding expectations has resulted in their Pre-Med program having a near perfect record for transfers to medical schools. However, a student coming from a Community College to start as a junior in one of Southern's STEM programs would be disadvantaged by the lack 2 years of rigorous scientific writing background. He noted that he and other faculty members have observed that the skills of many transferring students do not measure up to those of established Southern students. He is also concerned that the Community Colleges might fail to meet the standards of external accrediting bodies.

He believes that because the Community Colleges do not have the same physical spaces, equipment or sufficient full-time faculty they are not able to teach at the same level as is delivered at Southern. He urged that all factors be weighed before fitting every program into such a general scheme.

Julian Madison, Associate Professor of History, SCSU:

Testified and underscores how very important writing skills are to successfully complete his course and to succeed professionally after graduation. He emphasizes that the students of today will have to live in a globally competitive world and that the job market may drastically shift in the coming decade or so.

Peter Nicholls, Provost of the University of Connecticut:

Submitted written testimony in support of the bill. He referenced their institution's Guaranteed Admissions Program (GAP) which has gradually expanded to accept many community college programs. He explains that transfer students from community colleges provide a diversity of experiences and viewpoints. He credits inclusion of the faculty in the formulation of GAP for its continued success. He believes that the GAP program could be duplicated at the CSUs and community colleges.

He requests that the last sentence of the bill be deleted because mandating that UConn automatically accept thirty credits of general education curriculum would cause more confusion for students and institutions. It could also result in students having to repeat courses and spending more money. He cautions that seamless transfer should not come at the risk of a student graduating without all the education they need to practice in their chosen field.

Professor Mike Shea, Chair of the English Department, Southern Connecticut State University:

Testified in support the bill, but cautions to “carefully craft” this bill. He mentions the adoption of Writing Across Curriculum (WAC) by his institution, which is a national model. This particular program is a compulsory course needed to advance to other classes and allows for critical thinking and understanding of other fields to build the student's reading and writing skills. He is concerned that if we allow students the ability to substitute a similar course in lieu of that course, that student will not have skills necessary to excel in subsequent classes.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Mr. Eric Bergenn, Student Body President and Student at Central Connecticut State University:

Testified against the bill, stating that he is concerned that the current legislation would endanger the individuality of the different CSU campuses. He stated concern that this bill, if carried out, might provide a false hope to students transferring from a community college or two year program, looking to graduate in two more years. He is looking to “relax” standards of accepted classes among the different campuses. He reflected the opinion of other testifiers, stating that he feels the bill needs to call for more consultation with faculty and students.

Dr. Jason B. Jones, Associate Professor of English, Central Connecticut State University:

Testified in opposition to the bill, citing that there is not enough time to successfully plan and implement a program, given the broad nature of the targeted majors. Additionally, he notes that previous plans have failed and feels rank and file faculty had not been included in the process and was circumvented from doing so. Dr. Jones cites that, under the current curriculum, some courses serve a dual role of being a general requirement course and part of a major. Finally he underscores that if a plan is to succeed, it needs to be overseen and controlled by affected faculty from those institutions.

Dr. Steve Larocco, Professor of English, Southern Connecticut State University:

Submitted written testimony in opposition. He believes that because Community Colleges allow open access, the students there may be under-prepared and thus hold back the rest of their class. Therefore, he stated that even though these classes may have the same learning goals in the curriculum as the CSU classes the amount of learning may not equal those goals. He believes that the Community College students are different enough from CSU students that they need different classes and curricula. He warned that the more a program tries to meet widely divergent needs the more inadequately it can meet those needs.

Dr. Mary Ann Mahony, Associate Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University:

Submitted written testimony in opposition stating it will probably take 2 years to implement this bill making the July 1, 2012 deadline unrealistic. She suggested that California's pursuit of a Transfer and Articulation Agreement could help in guiding Connecticut toward the goal of this bill. She provided an outline of the process and problems that California has encountered while working on this reform. She noted that as in Connecticut, California's students had to complete more course hours at community colleges, in order to transfer into a state four year program prompting initiation. The community colleges had to adapt to the state universities' changes. Dr. Mahony notes their program still has not been implemented fully, and that attempts to create uniform course numbering systems among various colleges and programs has not worked.

Dr. Robert S. Wolff, Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University:

Testified in opposition to the bill, citing that credits obtained from other institutions are not always applicable to the major they are pursuing at the current institution, instead he advocates for a program-by-program articulation versus a common core method. Second, Dr. Wolff suggests that there is a “disconnect” between the public and teachers and suggests shifting the focus of educational programs from a checklist mentality to one that benefits the learning process of the student. He urges the Committee to “let the marketplace of free ideas prevail”, arguing that the common core model is outmoded.

Reported by: Todd M. Szabo, Assistant Clerk

Date: 3/9/12

Jeanne Reed, Assistant Clerk

 

Jeanie B. Phillips, Clerk