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Credit controversy

After receiving many complaints this semester that transfer students have been cheated out of credits, officials said the college transfers credits fairly, provides enough information and that students should do their research and ask questions about the transfer credit policy before deciding to attend Mills.

Assistant registrar Kristin Smith said that the last thing the M-Center wants to do is cheat a student out of credits earned from previous institutions.

“We want the students to do well and have an enjoyable experience,” said Smith.

Smith and registrar Alice Knudsen said that every prospective transfer student gets information from the M-Center and if admitted, they get a preliminary evaluation of credits they received from work at other schools.

“If they are classes like the ones offered at Mills, they will transfer,” said Smith.

Once a new student’s final transcript arrives, they will give her a final evaluation of what courses are transferable.

“The result of the preliminary evaluation is essentially close to or almost the same as the final,” Knudsen said.

However, transfer students who ended up with fewer transferable credits than they expected and could not have junior standing as a result, said they were not informed during the admission process about how and why credits transfer the way they do. Many said they were not informed about their class standing or about how many of their credits actually transferred until after they arrived at Mills. Some students declined to comment on their experiences because they were worried that their transfer credits, which are still in review, would be affected.

Sophomore Traci Bue, an English major, said that when she was accepted to Mills in fall 2001, she received her preliminary evaluation, which stated that her credits from Foothill Community College would transfer into 19 Mills credits, giving her junior standing. She said she thought that this evaluation was the final say since it came with an acceptance letter. However, after she registered in spring 2002, she received her final evaluation, which stated that she had 14.75 Mills credits and that she had sophomore standing. Bue said she wrote a letter to the registrar asking why she went from having junior to sophomore standing. She did not receive a response.

“It really pissed me off,” said Bue. “I have to take five classes per semester in order to get my degree in two years.”

Lena Lopez, a second semester freshwoman, said she went to city college in Sacramento and took media studies classes such as persuasion and argument, debate and speech. By the time she arrived at Mills she had 168 units of credit from the previous institution. Most of the credits were from media studies courses. Lopez thought that the Mills web site and 2001-02 course catalogue were current and said she thought she would be one credit away from junior standing and didn’t need to ask for more information.

However, after she arrived for orientation and registration, she was informed that the major that she wanted to pursue, media studies, no longer exists, even though it was advertised as an active major in the course catalogue that was mailed to her last June.

“They should have put a note saying that there was no communication major,” said Lopez.

Since the major is not offered anymore, the M-Center could only transfer some of her media studies units as elective credit.

Lopez said she also leaned that the 168 units she earned over a period of only three years transferred as one semester worth of classes, making her a second semester freshwoman.

“The M-Center has been everything but helpful,” Lopez said. “I like Mills but I feel like I’ve been screwed.”

Lopez said that the way her credits have transferred is unsettling. As a result, she might leave Mills. Other students who have had a similar experience said they feel the same way.

Ken Burke, chair of the academic standing committee, said that units earned from other schools do not transfer so easily into Mills credits because the college has higher academic standards. Certain departments have even told the M-Center what kinds of courses should and should not transfer.

“We have this attitude that we are better,” said Burke. “A person who spends four years at Mills are getting a more rigorous education than someone who has gone to UC Berkeley for four years.”

Burke said that Mills is more rigorous because students have more interaction with their professors and are expected to spend more hours outside of class studying.

“Most colleges and universities in the United States base academic credit on the assumption that students spend two hours of time working outside of class for each hour spent in the classroom,” said Provost John Brabson in a memo to the faculty. “Mills has traditionally expected that its students engage in three hours of work outside of class for each hour of class time).”

Smith said students should not be surprised by how many credits will transfer.

“I would encourage [prosp-ective] students to talk to the admission office on an ongoing basis to make sure that they are getting all their information,” said Smith. If a student feels that a mistake has been made with her transfer credits, she is more than welcome to come into the M-Center and ask for help, said Smith.

According to Knudsen, Mills is lenient about transferring credits.