Students encounter transfer credit difficulty

by Beacon Staff • November 15, 2006

He soon found out how wrong he was.

McCarthy had completed an impressive 36 credits by the end of his freshman year, the equivalent of 12 classes at Assumption.,When junior film major John McCarthy transferred to Emerson from Assumption College in Worcester, Mass, during his sophomore year, he presumed there would be no problem getting his credits transferred.

He soon found out how wrong he was.

McCarthy had completed an impressive 36 credits by the end of his freshman year, the equivalent of 12 classes at Assumption.

Instead of being on par with others in his year at Emerson, McCarthy was forced to take summer classes and entry-level courses just to ensure his Spring 2008 graduation date.

Assumption typically grants only three credits per class, while Emerson grants four, leaving McCarthy without sophomore status until he caught up with the rest of the Class of 2008.

McCarthy is one of the many transfer students at Emerson who have had trouble balancing their schedules, fulfilling general education requirements and transferring credits from their institutions. A number of students said the guidelines and procedures concerning transfers at Emerson have been unclear at best, causing them to look to Emerson's administration for help, often to no avail.

"Students don't necessarily complain," said Dr. William DeWolf, registrar. "They may question the credit conversion process, but once it has been explained that solves their concern."

Students transferring to Emerson are only allowed to bring 96 credits with them, which is equal to three full years of coursework here, and only 64 credits may be transferred from a junior or community college.

Credit is granted for "comparable" course work at accredited institutions with a C grade or better in the course. Course work is deemed "comparable" by the specific academic department under which this course work would general fall. DeWolf said each class is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Also, an official transcript must be sent directly to the Registrar's office from the student's previous institution.

Junior film major Kat Frumin transferred to Emerson from Boston University (BU) and had to pay her university to send an official transcript to Emerson. She said Emerson lost the first copy she had sent.

Frumin also had trouble transferring credits into her major program.

Although Emerson accepted all 28 credits for the classes in which she earned a C or better, certain courses would not transfer correctly from BU. Even classes with the same description and syllabi at both institutions would not transfer properly.

"I took an American short story course at BU that was considered both literature and writing, but it only transferred as a writing class here," Frumin said. "Some of my other classes just transferred as electives instead of major requirements because the registrar didn't know what else to count them as, like my two core communication courses from BU."

McCarthy said he also had to work his way through the administration before Emerson would agree to transfer an introduction-level and a 400-level philosophy course.

"I really had to push to get my philosophy credits accepted by Emerson," McCarthy said. "I had to get the syllabi for both classes sent to Emerson before they would even consider it."

McCarthy said he also found it difficult to get a hold of the proper officials within the college to help begin his transfer process.

"I had to make multiple phone calls and write multiple e-mails to even get in the door to try to get some credits transferred," McCarthy said. "At first they denied them, and it was another round of not being able to get in touch with the needed person. I can definitely see from experience why people are complaining."

Junior film major T.J. Broadbent experienced problems transferring his credits from Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore. He was able to transfer all 63.33 of his credits, but very few were counted as anything but electives.

"Despite my junior status, I have to take all general education courses and can only start with sophomore classes in the film department," Broadbent said. "Of my credits, only 17 were counted as non-elective courses."

McCarthy said he has heard of other transfer students having serious issues with getting Emerson to accept their credits and said he counts himself lucky because things worked out in his case.

"I have heard some real horror stories," McCarthy said.

As for making the current process an easier transition for Emerson's transfer students, DeWolf said there are no plans to change.

"We use standard, nationally recognized, approved by AACRAO procedures," DeWolf said. "There are no plans or need to change the process."