Transfer Credits Cause Headaches for U Students

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By Sidney Marchant

Zachary Zundel came to the U with an associates degree, but due to a technicality he didn’t receive all of the class credits for it.

He graduated from the Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science (NUAMES), a charter school in Utah that partners with Weber State University. This partnership allows eligible juniors and seniors to take college courses for supposedly transferrable credit hours.

Zundel completed 107 credits through this program, but his chemistry coursework only counted as elective credits when he got to the U.


How are credits transferred?

The way credits are transferred depends on whether someone is a transfer student or a new freshman.

Depending on the course, IB and AP credits are transferred as long as the freshman student received a high enough test score. Through concurrent enrollment courses, or college credits earned during high school, “the state of Utah has what is called an articulation agreement between all the public schools,” said Matt Lopez, director of admissions. The agreement states that, for example, if the equivalent of Math 1010 is taken at another public university in the state of Utah, the credits will transfer over as Math 1010.

“What is important for students to understand is there are two steps to transfer credit. One is [if] the transfer credit [will] transfer to the U. [For] an articulated course, like 1010, we’re required to take that, so it transfers,” Lopez said. “Step two is the actual department the student is in, determining how that course applies to a degree. If it doesn’t apply towards that major, then it would come as elective credit.”

Zundel, however, is a double major in computer science and biomedical engineering — both of which require the chemistry credits he now has to retake. He took 1110 at Weber State, but the U starts with a 1210-level course. The numbers are different, so the coursework won’t transfer.

“Every department, however, has the right to determine what counts towards a major or not,” Lopez said.

For out-of-state students, the process of transferring credits is even more complex.

“If a student was from Idaho State, as an example, we don’t have an articulation with Idaho State, so in that specific situation, we would look at the course description and compare it to a course at the U,” Lopez said.

Zundel took similar classes at Weber State that seem equivalent to the courses he’s being asked to take again at the U, but he believes that because he is a freshman the credits transferred over as electives.

“It seems like if I were a transfer student, they would have looked at my experience a little more closely,” he said.


So why not test out?

Students can test out of certain classes with CLEP exams, though this isn’t an option for every course.

“Essentially they can take an exam to show they have that level of proficiency,” Lopez said.

Lopez doesn’t recommend it, though. He’s seen students struggle because they skipped a course that probably would have been easier for them to just take.

Zundel strives to be challenged in his coursework and doesn’t want to be bored in classes he’s not learning anything new in. He asked to test out of the chemistry courses, but the U declined the request. He said it feels like the U “won’t accept the knowledge, but they’ll accept the credits.”


How should the U handle situations like this?

Zundel said part of the problem is that retaking classes is expensive. He doesn’t want to sit in a course where he already understands the material and have to pay for it.

“We’re paying thousands of dollars to attend class here,” he said. “My hurry is that I don’t want to be in debt.”

Zundel could have skipped his entire freshman year of classes had his credits from Weber State transferred.

“It would be really awesome if the university would let students bounce around based on what they knew,” he said, “and not the lecture halls they’ve attended.”

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@sidneymarchant