Governor signs law to help simplify transfer system

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Dan Shah

Students thinking about transferring to public or private four-year institutions within the state of Illinois may find the whole process easier than it once was.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed earlier this month a bill establishing a Web-based system for course transferability. The Course Applicability System is designed to help students make it through their studies with as little stress and redundancy as possible.

The legislation establishes that the Board of Higher Education needs to implement a standard Web site for transferability. Currently, many individual institutions have a transfer Web site with a link to the applicability system. The common Web site allows students to see what courses are transferable towards a bachelor’s degree. The Web site also lists academic programs, course evaluations and requirements, according to the bill.

Melissa Norris, sophomore in ALS, is pleased with the new legislation because it establishes standards between all the major schools using similar systems, potentially reducing stress.

“It puts everyone on the same page, and it’s good if they use the same system,” Norris said.

In the fall of 2004, more than 46,000 students transferred schools in the state of Illinois.

“Statistically, it has been noted that 60 percent of all college freshmen will transfer from their beginning institution within the first 18 months of the academic journey,” said Rusty J. Fishel, vice president of Strategic Explorers, the pioneers who introduced the applicability system.

“More than 2.7 million students transfer from one institution to another annually,” Fishel said. “In most cases, the method in which to help facilitate these transfers is manual, archaic and very time consuming.”

Fishel has a vision that the software will help simplify what transfer students need to do to avoid wasting time in similar classes.

“The planning guide is for students to say, ‘here are the courses and this is what I need to take and this is what I want to avoid taking in the future,'” Fishel said.

Developed at the Miami University of Ohio, the Course Applicability System was created by AcademyOne, Strategic Explorers first new business venture, to give easy access to students who wanted simply to log online to access information about course equivalencies. The system is now used by all students who attend community colleges in Illinois and intend on transferring to a four-year college or university.

“I used it to look up what courses I can take in the summer to see if the credit transfers at all,” said Norris, who attended Lincolnland Community College in Springfield.

“It’s actually really easy to use,” Norris said. “It’s like looking up which books to use for classes here.”

Fishel suggests that the applicability system should eliminate the debate between schools on which system to use to decide which courses will transfer over.

“Illinois and Indiana have spent the last 15 years debating which courses will transfer over,” Fishel said.

“Right now there are 14 states that have adopted the CAS solution which represents a base of over 1.3 million students,” Fishel wrote in e-mail. “This unique planning tool works with the institutions Degree Audit to help students determine course equivalencies and gives them the ability to do ‘what if scenarios’ in order to help them plan their academic future.”

While all community colleges have uploaded their offerings into the applicability system, only the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northern Illinois University, the Midwest’s largest recipient of transfer students from community colleges, are fully up-to-date with the system. The University is close to becoming compatible with the system.

“We started implementation in 2004 and it is essentially complete,” said Marilyn Marshall, director for Academic Policy and Analysis in the University Office for Planning and Budget. “Students have already begun using it.”

Marshall is a principle instigator for a statewide applicability system and is currently working with other schools, including NIU, with finalizing a complete system in Illinois.

“This is exactly what students need,” Marshall said. “The legislation signed by the governor shows support at the state level which is important for funding for the system.”

The Course Applicability System Web site allows students to create their own accounts, making the system personalized and individualized for each student. It even includes personal services such as financial aid and trials to check how future class work can apply to degrees at different four-year colleges and universities.

“Anyone can create an account,” said Daniel Cullen, a graduate assistant in the University Office for Planning and Budgeting. “Students can, for example, see if classes they might take at a community college over the summer can transfer over to the University.”

Students are skeptical as to how useful the implementation will be this year, with only several schools on par with the system.

“I don’t think it will be too productive right now,” said Scott Currier, sophomore in Engineering.

“There are only a few number of schools working with the system in Illinois as of now and it will probably take awhile for schools to get adjusted,” Currier said.

Currier thinks that the system does have potential to make transferring a lot easier in the coming years.

“I think it will eventually be helpful and I’d say it would be worth (the funding),” Currier said. “I know quite a few people who have transferred and they have gone in circles trying to figure out what classes transfer credit over. The community colleges just have to be telling people about the system for the system to start becoming productive.”