Michigan schools to simplify the transfer process

By NATALIE WRIGHT
Managing Editor

The days of wasting time and money on credits that don’t transfer may soon be over.

The Michigan Transfer Agreement, which will take effect fall 2014, guarantees that a block of general education credits will transfer to any public university in Michigan.

It is the first statewide initiative to streamline the transfer process since 1973 and will be the first ever to be received by every public school in the state.

The MTA will replace the 40-year-old Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admissions Officers (MACRAO) transfer agreement, MACRAO President-elect John Meldrum said.

While the MACRAO agreement has only been accepted by a handful of universities, every four-year and two-year school in Michigan has agreed to sign on to the MTA, according to Meldrum, who is also an assistant dean and registrar at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

In essence, the MTA won’t be much different from the MACRAO agreement, but the fact that it will be universally accepted makes a world of difference, said Pat Cygnar, director of community relations at Eastern Michigan University, and EMU’s representative on the MTA committee.

“Unfortunately, we live in a state where there is no uniform higher education authority,” said Paula Welmers, a Counselor at North Central Michigan College and another member of the MTA committee.

Unlike many other states, there is no streamlined process for students who wish to transfer, Welmers said, and this makes the system inefficient for students, often wasting their time and money.

The MTA is very good news for Washtenaw students, Vice President of Student and Academic Services Linda Blakey said. It means that students will have all of the information about what will or will not transfer up front, which they really deserve as the consumer, she said.

The idea for the MTA was generated by the state legislature, Meldrum said.

In 2012 the Community College Appropriations Bill included boilerplate language that called for the creation of a 14-member committee to “develop a process to improve the transferability of core college courses…”

The committee was composed of five representatives from community colleges, five representatives from universities and four legislators. The school representatives were chosen regionally. Since it was established, the committee has been working to reach compromises.

Its goal: to draft an agreement which no school can take exception to in the future.

It’s important to recognize what a huge accomplishment this agreement is, Cygnar said.

In the first committee meeting, some of the university representatives were against the agreement and didn’t think it was a possibility for their schools, she said, but after a few more meetings they got on board.

“I think they realized that it really does make it easier for everyone,” she said.

In the last four decades, a lot of the universities have not accepted the MACRAO agreement, she said. And many MACRAO-receiving institutions have created provisos, or exceptions, to the agreement, Meldrum said. A university might accept the agreement but require a student retake one or more of the courses.

The basis of the MTA is to begin with a universal agreement, so that universities will have no reason to create these provisos, eliminating the surprises and subsequent frustration for students when they are ready to transfer.

The MTA will transfer as a block, with no course-by-course transfer process, Meldrum said.

“This means that when you transfer, hopefully you won’t have to take any more gen-ed classes. Your tuition dollars and time can go to junior- and senior-level classes,” Welmers said.

But while the MTA is guaranteed to transfer, universities can still require higher-level gen-eds, especially major-specific ones, Meldrum said.

“It doesn’t preclude institutions from having additional requirements, but they cannot nit-pick at those block courses,” he said.

While it will make the process of transferring simpler, some students may find the requirements of the MTA more challenging than the MACRAO agreement.

With the MACRAO agreement, grades in all of the courses had to average at least a 2.0. In the MTA, a student must achieve at least a 2.0 in each course, Meldrum said.

In the MACRAO agreement, you could avoid math; in the MTA you cannot.

“We haven’t quite nailed down the level of math that will be required,” Welmers said. “The universities want college-level algebra, the community colleges want intermediate level.”

And an additional science requirement has also been added to the MTA.

Students may have to work a little harder for the new agreement, Welmers said, but they can know that it’s worthwhile because it’s guaranteed to count.

“If you feel like your feet are being held to the fire a little bit, that’s how it’s going to be at the university level anyway. So you might as well adjust and learn at the community college while it’s cheaper,” she said.

For students who have been working towards transferring with the MACRAO agreement, there will probably be some overlap before the MACRAO is eliminated, Meldrum said.

There is still a lot of work to be done before the rollout next fall, but the committee and the schools are on track to make it happen, Meldrum said.

On Nov. 27, the final outline for the MTA will be published on the MACRAO website, he said.

The next step is for all of the school presidents to officially sign on by Feb. 1, but they have all approved the agreement and given their intention to sign, Meldrum said.

On March 1 everything will be finalized.

“That’s when we’re going to go into full detail on how to implement the rollout,” he said.

In May, there will be regional academic adviser training.

In the fall, life for transfer students gets a lot easier.

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