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Credit Transfer

CC Deal with Southern New Hampshire U Could Hurt In-State Universities

Should community colleges sign agreements with four-year institutions that could compete with their in-state brethren? That's the question posed in a column published by Hechinger Report, which recently examined the articulation agreement signed between the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges and Southern New Hampshire University.

Under the agreement, students from all 14 Pennsylvania community colleges will be able to transfer up to 90 credits "seamlessly" to SNHU, and receive a 10 percent tuition reduction on the completion of their bachelor's degree. SNHU's program is online and currently has 100,000-plus students.

But the deal could have downstream consequences for four-year institutions within Pennsylvania, suggested Jill Barshay, author of the column. As she noted, Moody's Investors Service, which rates the financial standing of many institutions around the country, put out a report for subscribers calling the agreement "credit negative" for the state's four-year schools. Students who might have chosen to transfer from their community college to one of the in-state options "might be enticed by the cheaper tuition, the convenience of online learning and the easy credit transfer policy," choosing to enroll at SNHU instead, wrote Barshay.

Currently, some 25,000 students make the transfer from two-year schools to four-year schools, Barshay stated. "Losing even some of them is going to hurt Pennsylvania colleges, which are already struggling with declining numbers of high school graduates."

Plus, said Barshay, the deal puts more pressure on market conditions for state universities that are considering expanding their own online degree programs.

Why did the Commission sign with an out-of-state provider? Elizabeth Bolden, president and CEO of the Commission, told Barshay that one of the missions of community colleges is to help students move into a four-year institution. But there's nobody else that has come along offering such a "simple" transfer process. A website intended to help students plan their college transfer within Pennsylvania is anything but simple, Barshay wrote.

Now, the Commission has additional proposals from other out-of-state online providers that are also under consideration. As Bolden explained, "My students cannot wait for those offers [from in-state universities] to arrive on my desk. So while I wait, I will continue to ensure that our students have the opportunities they need to get a degree, get a job and move their families forward."

The entire article is openly available on the Hechinger Report website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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