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Voices of the Global Community

Troy A. Holaday, NACADA Advising Transfer Students Commission Chair 

In October of 2003, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) introduced The Affordability in Higher Education Act, H.R.3311, a proposed amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965. H.R.3311 featured language that alarmed many of us in postsecondary education who routinely deal with transfer of credit issues. In an attempt at alleviating the rising cost of higher education, McKeon’s bill proposed a College Affordability Index, which would supposedly indicate the general affordability of institutions based on a number of factors, including their rate of acceptance of transfer credit. The bill required that institutions of higher education refrain from forcing students to “take the same course twice,” due to what some perceived as elitist transfer credit evaluation policies. Among the bills provisions were statements that required institutions to evaluate credit from all schools recognized by the Secretary of Education, not just those with regional accreditation, and to report in detail on the percentage of credits accepted in transfer. Noncompliance was threatened with loss of regional accreditation and serious financial ramifications.

The Affordability in Higher Education Act of 2003 prompted lengthy and highly critical responses from such groups as American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and the American Council on Education (ACE). Among the chief complaints were the cumbersome reporting requirements, the “federalization” of accrediting agencies, and above all else, the unprecedented intrusion into the decision making processes of institutions of higher education. Many also questioned the necessity of such legislation when the mobility of student credit is by all accounts at an all time high.

H.R.3311 has since been revised twice, first as H.R.4283,The College Access and Opportunity Act of 2004, and more recently as H.R. 609,The College Access and Opportunity Act of 2005. Both bills were introduced by Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce (CEW). Most of the troublesome language of the earlier bills has fallen by the wayside, but H.R.609 still carries a “non-discrimination” clause that prohibits institutions from rejecting transfer credits solely on the basis of a sending institution's lack of regional accreditation, if that institution’s alternative accrediting organization is recognized by the Secretary of Education. In July of this year, H.R.609 was forwarded by the subcommittee to the full committee for a vote, and all signs point to the very real possibility of this bill becoming a law.

Members of NACADA who deal with transfer students should be aware of these developments for a number of reasons. First, those of you involved in shaping institutional policies regarding the review of transfer credit may be forced to comply with Rep. McKeon and Rep. Boehner’s concept of fair play. Second, the legislation is reflective of transfer credit evaluation initiatives (such as mandated common numbering systems and transferable general studies modules) that have been occurring across the country at the state level for several years, and it indicates a measure of more or less informed encroachment by government agencies into the process of providing higher education. If you object to micromanagement of your institution’s academic policies by state and local government, now is the time to become involved. Contact your elected representatives and let them know where you stand.

Troy A. Holaday
Ball State University
tholaday@bsu.edu

Cite this article using APA style as: Holaday, T. (2005, September). On The College Access and Opportunity Act and federal regulation of transfer credit policies. Academic Advising Today, 28(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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