frustrated with credit transfer (vent!)

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by xgoddessx, Nov 15, 2005.

  1. xgoddessx

    xgoddessx New Member

    OK, so everyone knows that the issue of credit transfer is highly volatile these days, especially as it applies to students coming from NA schools trying to enter a RA school.

    I am deeply annoyed with the University at which I am enrolled as a graduate student. I would like to take 2 courses in graphic or web design towards a master's degree in instructional technology. Before I enroll at a certain DETC-accredited school, I went to check first.

    When I spoke to someone by phone, she had never heard of DETC. Fine. When I explained they were not regionally accredited, but that DETC was recognized as a national accreditation agency by both CHEA and the Dept. of Education, she put me on hold to find a list of the accrediting agencies that the University recognized. She started reading Middle States, North Central, etc. etc. I said, yes, the big 6 regional accreditation agencies. Anyway, I asked her what the policy was regarding transfer credits from nationally or professionally accredited agencies and she had NO idea. Fine. I told her I would send her an email with some detailed information so she could make a decision.

    Anyway, I get an email back saying they cannot accept credits from this DETC-school. I email back saying:

    "I am disappointed, but also intrigued by this decision. May I please
    have more detailed information as to why Western will not accept credits
    from XXXXXXX? This is not meant to be argumentative; I would like to be
    informed so that in selecting courses from another institution I would
    not have to worry about transferability.

    On what criteria was this decision made? Is the policy to ONLY accept
    credits from a regionally accredited school? What about professional or
    national accreditation (i.e. NLN, ALA, ABA)?"

    Their response:

    "It is the policy of XXXXXXXX to accept transfer
    credit from institutions accredited by the following associations:

    Middle States Associaton of Colleges and Schools
    North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
    New England Association of Schools and Colleges
    Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
    Southern Association of College and Schools
    Western Association of Schools and Colleges"

    I persist and ask:

    "Thanks! I certainly understand that credit granted by a
    regionally-accredited institution is valid for transfer. May I please
    have more insight as to why credit earned at a nationally or
    professionally accredited institution is NOT accepted?

    Surely credit earned from a school who is accredited by the American Bar
    Association or the Association of American Medical or the Association to
    Advance Collegiate Schools of Business would not be unilaterally turned

    "The Department of Education has granted the Accrediting Commission of
    the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) the authority to
    accredit 'private and non-private distance education institutions
    offering non-degree and associate, baccalaureate, and master's degree
    programs primarily through the distance learning method'" (U.S.
    Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. National
    Institutional and Specialized Accrediting Bodies - Distance Education
    and Training Council). The Council for Higher Education (CHEA) also
    recognizes the Accrediting Commission of the DETC. Additionally, "CHEA
    has long held a position that accredited status should not be the sole
    reason for refusal at least to consider transfer requests."

    If you, or someone else, could please explain to me why this is not good
    enough for XXXXXX, I would be greatly appreciative.

    Thanks again for your assistance."

    This time, the reply is:

    "There are many, many accediting bodies out there. At XXXXXX, we only recognize those accrediting bodies of the Higher Learning Commission."

    Now I am starting to get annoyed. this person obviously doesn't know what she is talking about. I write:

    "Thanks for your reply. I'm confused by your statement "we only recognize those accrediting bodies of the Higher Learning Commission." That contradicts your earlier email.

    So XXXXXX doesn't even recognize the other 5 regional accrediting agencies recognized by the Dept. of Education or CHEA? That essentially means that XXXXXX doesn't allow credit transfer from a regionally accredited school outside of Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, & Wyoming.

    I find that highly disturbing! I wouldn't think that an institution committed to diversity and higher values in higher education would allow such intolerance.

    Sue, if you could please forward on this email thread to someone else within the graduate school or transfer admissions, I would really and truly appreciate it. I would really like to get to the bottom of this.

    Thanks so much for all your help."

    So now I email the Assistant Provost who is equally useless and regurgitates what I have already read on the school website:

    "The University's policy on transfer credit is as follows (per the Graduate

    "Transfer credits are approved by the School of Graduate Studies or the
    Graduate Council only after the student has been admitted to candidacy for a
    degree. Petitions for transfer of graduate credit must be submitted to the
    School of Graduate Studies, and official transcripts recording the transfer
    courses must be sent directly from the registrar of that institution to the
    School of Graduate Studies. No course credit may be transferred unless the
    grade received was at least a B.

    If approved by his or her department, a student may transfer a maximum of
    six semester hours of approved graduate credit from an accredited
    institution in a 30-hour degree program or nine semester hours in a degree
    program requiring 32 or more semester hours. Students may petition to the
    Graduate Council, with the approval of the adviser and the departmental
    graduate committee, for additional hours to be accepted from other
    accredited institutions."

    As you can see, the policy is written with the assumption that the course
    work being requested for transfer has already been completed. Students can
    also request consideration for transfer prior to course enrollment.

    The University's interpretation of "accredited institution" is as explained
    by XXXXXXX. If you wish to appeal for transfer credit from an
    institution which is not regionally accredited, you may do so through the
    Graduate Council. "

    Now I am angry that I can't get a straight answer. I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I think I deserve an answer.

    Undeterred, I respond:

    "Dear XXXXXX,

    Thank you for your reply. However, the policy does not address who
    ultimately makes the determination of whether or not credits will transfer
    and by what criteria that decision is made. Therefore, I am asking for
    further clarification.

    According to The Higher Learning Commission's "Commission Policy and Good
    Practices on Transfer of Credit"

    "Institutions and accreditors need to assure that transfer decisions are not
    made solely on the source of accreditation of a sending program or
    institution. While acknowledging that accreditation is an important factor,
    CHEA believes that receiving institutions ought to make clear their
    institutional reasons for accepting or not accepting credits that students
    seek to transfer. Students should have reasonable explanations about how
    work offered for credit is or is not of sufficient quality when compared
    with the receiving institution and how work is or is not comparable with
    curricula and standards to meet degree requirements of the receiving

    Who else might be able to help me to understand this?

    Many thanks!"

    I don't know to whom I should turn next. I would simply like an answer. Am I being unreasonable?

  2. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Sounds to me like you'll be an excellent graduate student! :) (Keep at them until they spell it out!!)
  3. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    And that was your first mistake. This was, clearly, not the person with whom you should have been talking; nor was she going to become the person -- even after you sent her the email -- who was going to make, or should have made, the "decision." She's a functionary; a person who's been told, "Okay, here's the list of accreditors we'll accept," and that's all she knows, and she doesn't even know why she knows it... other than because it's what she was told. That should have been painfully clear from the gitgo. You wasted a lot of time trying to convince her.

    In a situation like this, you need to get as high up in the food chain at the university as you can, and as fast as you can.

    You should also probably not get into national versus regional accreditation discussions before you've simply asked whether they'll accept credits from suchandsuch school -- the nationally accredited one. I've seen admissions people say they'll only accept regionally-accredited coursework and/or degrees; but then when you push them to actually look-up the nationally-accredited school in question in their directory of institutions accredited by USDE- and/or CHEA-approved agencies, they'll say something like, "Oh! I see that school right here in my directory. Yes, it's regionally accredited; so, yes, we'll accept those credits."

    Of course, the nationally-accredited school she found in her directory is not regionally accredited; it's in her directory because its accreditor is USDE- and/or CHEA-approved; and she doesn't know that regional accreditation is only one kind of accreditation; and that when she said "it's regionally accredited" what she actually meant was that it was accredited. Period.

    There are huge numbers of people -- even at regionally accredited institutions -- who don't really understand accreditation; and who use the term "regionally accredited" or "regional accreditation" when they actually mean (but don't realize that they actually mean), simply, "accredited" or "accreditation" where said accreditation is by an agency -- any agency -- that's USDE- and/or CHEA-approved.

    Arguing -- or trying to educate people -- about accreditation in a situation like that is pointless. You were clearlly not getting your point across. In part, the problem is that the university doesn't want to talk in hypotheticals. The assistant provost basically told you that. S/he also told you that "the School of Graduate Studies or the Graduate Council" is who will make the decision; and by the words "if you wish to appeal for transfer credit from an institution which is not regionally accredited, you may do so through the Graduate Council," s/he was telling you that while they usually only accept regionally-accredited coursework, there is obviously a mechanism for accepting non-regionally-accredited coursework by means of the appeal process.

    First go to the school where you want to take the nationally-accredited courses and ask for a copy of:
    • the full course description for each course you want to take; and,
    • each course's syllabus; and,
    • each course's reading list; and,
    • any other documentation that would help another accredited institution assess the courses for transferability into another program.
    Then you need to find out who in "the School of Graduate Studies" or "the Graduate Council" at your current, regionally-accredited school typically makes these kinds of decisions; and then you need to put together a more or less formal proposal... something dispassionate, fact-filled, brief, to-the-point, and compelling. It needs to explain, simply:
    • that you're enrolled in a graduate program at the regionally-accredited institution at which you're enrolled; and,
    • that you want to take two distance learning courses (for a total of six semester hours of credit) at an institution that's not regionally accredited, but that is[/i] accredited by an agency that's approved by the US Department of Education (USDE) and/or its Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA); and,

      [*]that CHEA, which approves the regional accreditor that accredited the grad program that you're in encourages regionally accredited institutions to strongly consider accepting transfer credits from any institution that's accredited by any USDE- and/or CHEA-approved agency as explained in this PDF document on the CHEA web site; and,

      [*]that you'd like the graduate program in which you're enrolled to accept said six hours of credit toward your graduate degree, and you'd like it to tell you whether it would accept said coursework before you go to the trouble, time and expense of enrolling in and completing said coursework; and,

      [*]that to facilitate the decision, you have included, attached, copies of the course description, syllabus, and reading list for each course that you would like the grad school in which you're currently enrolled to consider.[/list=1]Then attach said descriptions (including course number, etc.), syllabi, and reading lists to your proposal; and then submit it to whomever you learned normally makes these decisions in either "the School of Graduate Studies or the Graduate Council."

      If they come back with a "no," then that's it. Just accept that, and stop trying to be the national accreditation activist who turns around your school's thinking on such matters.

      Some schools don't accept nationally-accredited coursework because they don't really understand accreditation and so they mistakenly think that regional accreditation is the only kind; or that while there are other kinds of accreditation, only regional accreditation is USDE- and/or CHEA-approved; and, if so, they are surprised to find the nationally-accredited school that they thought wasn't accredited in their directory of USDE- and/or CHEA-approved schools... whereupon they reverse themselves and tell you that your nationally-accredited coursework is accepatable after all.

      And other schools understand accreditation just fine, thankyouverymuch; and have intentionally limited the coursework/degrees they'll accept to only those from regionally-accredited institutions. And that's that.

      When it's the former, simply having the person on the phone bother to look-up the nationally-accredited institution in his/her directory of institutions from which they will accept coursework/degrees might do it.

      When it's the latter, then it is what it is and that's the end of it.

      In either case, arguing with front-line, low-level (or even medium- to high-level) functionaries in admissions and/or registrars offices will typically do no good.

      Remember, also, that a program chair (or those immediately beneath him/her) can often decide that they'll accept coursework that their own university's general, standing policies specifically exclude. You need to get to someone as high up in your program's office as you can get to, explain it to him/her (possibly by means of the proposal format that I just described), and then accept whatever is his/her decision without getting annoyed or upset or angry or any of that kind of thing.

      I don't know if that helped, but I certainly hope it did.

      Good luck to you.
  4. xgoddessx

    xgoddessx New Member


    Thanks for your reply. It was very helpful and I really appreciate it! I am drafting a proposal as per your suggestion. And you're totally right, "arguing ... will typically do no good."

    But I want to make a comment about what you said in that I should "stop trying to be the national accreditation activist who turns around your school's thinking on such matters."

    Transfer is more than an academic issue. It is (and I have to properly attribute this to its source, CHEA - also about equity and access. Perhaps I am a good candidate to persuade my school to re-examine their current thinking about accreditation because I currently don't have anything at stake. I'm not one of these students who has done coursework at a for-profit school only to find that it won't be accepted anywhere (and that's really another separate can of worms.)

    Anyway, thanks again!

  5. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    You make an excellent point. I guess my approach to it, though, would be to first inquire of the low-level admissions or registrar staffers and their bosses just to document the anti-national-accreditation bias; then, separate from that, I'd go to the department head and make my proposal/case and either get it approved or not; and if it's not (or even if it is -- in fact, if you think about it, especially if it is), then I'd make the task of turning-around the university's thinking -- using, as an example, the aforementioned bias I experienced from the low-level staffers and their bosses -- a completely separate issue... a project, of sorts, that I could do when I'm not studying.

    As an activist myself, the last thing in the world that I'd counsel anyone to do is not be an activist if they truly believed something was inherently wrong and needed to be changed. I'm sorry if it came across that that's what I believe. All I'm saying, really, is that it's foolish to try to mix activism with the basic task of getting your major's department to accept (or, more accurately, approve in advance) your nationally-accredited coursework. In the first place, if the university starts thinking you're some kind of zealot, they're almost certain to deny you what you want. These are just people, after all... with feelings and prejudices and retributive capabilities, just like anyone else.

    Just don't mix the two, I guess is what I'm saying... and thanks for drilling further down to bring that out of me.

    Good luck to you!
  6. George Brown

    George Brown New Member

    Good luck xgoddessx. I think you will win them over on this, and policy will change. You make some strong and valid points. I'm with Gregg re-getting to the top of the food chain. Write a letter, not email, get a meeting and explain the facts with hard evidence. Persistence is the key.


  7. mineralhh

    mineralhh New Member

    While everything said is correct, I would take a slightly different path. Having close ties to admissions myself I have found the following path to be most promising:

    Rule 1 for all lower-level admission employees: Never give anything in writing, that could be used for a formal precedent case. As such they have done a good job in your case in stating the obvious. I don't think their answers are to blame from this point of view. first get as much information on both NA school and courses you have taken, this goes down all the way to your actual completed assignments.

    You then get in touch with a professor (NOT THE ADMISSIONS!!!) at the RA university with the wish to look over the material and state his opinion regarding quality. You can tell him your situation politely and we have found at least over here, that most professors will evaluate them personally. They will give you a short notice sayng "The course is a reasonable foundation for my course XXX" With this short, but most important RA-internal notice, you now approach admissions. They then have the possibility to judge on a 1:1 basis due to the already existing indicator of quality.

    Good luck xgoddessx (are those straightedge x'es in your screenname?Reminds me of times I posted elsewhere as xintegrityx :)
  8. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    Hmm. Interesting point. Never thought of that... although, if it turned out the way Helen wanted it to turn out, it could be precisely the precedent she'd like to see. So it's a roll of the dice, you're saying... right?

    Sounds interesting. So, then... help me out, here... you're saying that before she gets the RA grad school department's official, advance okeedokie (the request for which you're saying shouldn't be in writing, in any case), she should first get a professor in said department to unofficially assess the nationally-accredited coursework and declare it sound; and then she should take that declaration to admissions, rather than to the department?

    If so... hmmm... strategically speaking... hmm... by golly, I think I like it! You should most definitely think about this, too, Helen!
  9. mineralhh

    mineralhh New Member

    Close. I see caring admissions people with strict rules to follow. They need to avoid public precedents as much as possible to not open doors wide. So if Helen would get precise information by mail in writing, the admissions argumentation would be public and could therefore be reused by others. That's what you need to avoid. If she talks with an admissions guy in a 1:1 setting and gets in due to her "described unique situation", you'll be hardly able to base a precedent in a university setting on that, as there are tons of loopholes for admissions to hide in as the exact reasons for admission are not public. Helen's university seems to know that also, see the statement in their last e-mail: "If you wish to appeal for transfer credit from an
    institution which is not regionally accredited, you may do so through the
    Graduate Council."

    Exactly, she gets a "statement of quality"by a professor who teaches exactly this field at the RA (of course if the NA work was crap, it won't get past this point and that's also how it is supposed to be). Then she approaches admissions. Admissions will then either directly accept it or might pass it on to the department for formal confirmation (where they will have a hard time overriding the opinion by one of their colleagues who is specialised in that exact field. It usually passes on an "individual basis"). I don't know of any cases where admissions has refused to process on any application that has already been positively preevaluated by the adequate inhouse resource.
  10. xgoddessx

    xgoddessx New Member

    You know what's amusing?

    Apparently I wasn't emailing with a lower-level staffer - the person to whom I was corresponding is the end-all, be-all, oracle of all things to do with accreditation!

  11. jimnagrom

    jimnagrom New Member

    A suggestion - rather than confront them - ID who can allow an exception to the policy and make your case.

    Don't focus on "NA vs. RA" - focus on DETC as the original DL schools supporting the military, state dept., etc. - approved by US Dept of Ed and CHEA - avoid "NA" - it's synonymous with ITT, IBC, etc. - thoroughly inferior schools.
  12. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    Yes, you are being unreasonable. RA is the gold standard and RA schools cannot be forced to recoginize NA/DETC. NA is the silver standard. I have met a few people who want to shove NA down the throats of RA schools, but it simply won't work. We must work within the system that we have.
  13. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    Which may mean that you already have your answer. As me again so deftly points out, there are many RA schools that won't even consider NA or specialized/professionally-accredited coursework/degrees. That's their right. And that may be your situation. If so, it may be time to start accepting it, and moving on.

    And then there's what jimnagrom said, too. ;)
  14. xgoddessx

    xgoddessx New Member

    Re: Re: frustrated with credit transfer (vent!)

    Categorically lumping together all RA schools under the aforementioned "gold standard" is sort of silly. Would you really put, say, Harvard University and small community college on equal footing only because New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits them both? Surely you recognize variance in prestige/academic rigor/quality among RA schools.

    And surely there are registrars at RA schools that wouldn't blithely accept all credits earned an another RA school for the same reason. And if that's the case, then it's pointless to automatically DENY the transfer coursework done at schools with NA accreditation.

    I believe that for schools to flat out refuse to even consider accepting credits from another school solely based on the sending school's accreditation is wrong. Even the accrediting agencies themselves say that!

  15. Kirkland

    Kirkland Member

    OK, to recap... you are in a RA university and want to take two courses at a DETC accredited school and transfer that credit back into your program. First, good luck with that. Some good work in this area has been done by concerned students such as yourself to facilitate changes in policy re: RA vs NA. You might convince the Council to re-evaluate their transfer policies but I think it is more likely you will find there are deeper issues behind their policy and they aren't going to discuss it in any great detail with you. You will probably come to the conclusion that it is more practical to take these courses from one of the schools they do accept. You are already in a RA program, the path of least resistance and the lesser BS factor is to remain within that system for all of your courses.

    However, the Higher Education Transfer Alliance (approx. 425 member schools) may be useful to you. And who knows...maybe your school is a member (which I doubt).
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 17, 2005
  16. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: frustrated with credit transfer (vent!)

    Because you have identified variences within the RA system does not justify forcing RA school to accept DETC credits. If you can find an RA school that will accept DETC credits, then more power to you. However, that is extremely difficult to do. Why??? Because RA schools have imposed RA standards as the minimum requirement.
  17. xgoddessx

    xgoddessx New Member

    Re: Re: Re: Re: frustrated with credit transfer (vent!)

    Who's forcing anything? I have asked a reasonable question to which no one has answered.

    You have twice mentioned the word "force" in your posts. The student isn't in any position to "force" anyone, least of all admissions, to do anything. All we can do is to inspire some dialogue.

    Subscribing to the notion that NA or PA is always automatically inferior to RA is akin to blindly believing that all non-profit higher education is good and all for-profit higher education is bad. And as you are an online learner, I'm sure you have to battle the belief that distance learning has less academic value than traditional, on-campus education.

    If we only "work[ed] within the system that we have," nothing would ever change or evolve.

  18. decimon

    decimon Well-Known Member


    I have to disagree with you, Gregg, Quinn, et al who would militate for (is that better than "force"?) RA schools accepting NA credits. Standards needn't be delineated to the point of philisophical debate. In fact, they can not be. Standards are established by drawing some line in the sand and sticking to those standards pending some future review.

    An open policy of endless negotiation with every student of every point of view is not possible.
  19. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: frustrated with credit transfer (vent!)

    Actually, the question has been answered, but you don't like it and you refuse to accept it. :eek:

    RA is the gold standard. That is the standard that RA schools use to accept transfer credits. There are many different standards in the world, but if you want to attend an RA school, then you will have to abide by RA standards. I realize that you don't think it's justified, but it still stands and the standards are still imposed. I also realize that you think that you can crack that nut, yet it remains intact.

    Regional accreditation remains the minimum standard that is enforced amongst RA institutions. While you would like to mix other accreditations in with RA, it is not happening, at least not today. NA schools have utility, but if you choose to puruse a DETC degree, then you must recoginize that its utility will be limited.
  20. xgoddessx

    xgoddessx New Member

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: frustrated with credit transfer (vent!)

    Uh, no, actually, my question has NOT yet been answered by the University.

    You should rethink "gold standard." I don't think it's in use anymore.

    Agreed. Philosophical debate is best left to this forum! :)


Share This Page