If you attended the transfer student seminar last month, you would have seen a Student Union filled with disgruntled sophomores. “How odd,” you might have thought. “Don’t most students transfer at the start of their junior year?”
Yes, and most of these students did-it was only after they enrolled, and in many cases after classes had started, that these students were told they had been granted only enough Mills credits to matriculate as sophomores.
The problem is the mathematical process that Mills uses for transferring incoming upperclasswomens’ credits. At schools that use a “standard” credit system, students become juniors once they earn 60 credits, or take 20 3-credit courses. Mills undercounts credits by transferring each class’s credits separately, giving .75 credits per 3 credit class. This gives students who have taken 60 “standard” credits only 15 Mills credits-making them sophomores-even if all of their classes were transferred and accepted by Mills.
According to transfer policy, 3.5 semester units equal 1 Mills credit. But Mills counts a course worth 3 credits as only .75 Mills credits, instead of .85 credits. This loss of 1/10 of a credit per class adds up to 2 Mills credits over two years, resulting in incoming students being placed a class lower.
Worse, the system is applied unfairly to different students. If a student attended a school with 4 credit classes (which are counted as 1.25 Mills credits) and arrives with 60 credits, she will be given 18.75 Mills credits and junior standing. A new student arriving with 60 credits-if they are all accepted-can come away with anywhere between 15 and 18.75 Mills credits, a difference of a full semester.
Class standing has wide-ranging implications for students. Juniors are allocated Stafford loans twice the size of sophomores. A student who receives 16.75 credits needs not only to make up the .25 credits; she will also have to fulfill the College 10 requirement plus an individual’s major classes that are waived for juniors.
Just as problematic as the mathematics is the quality of communication with incoming transfer students. Prospective students were told (incorrectly), “We don’t put out a catalog.” Admissions or faculty told prospective students (incorrectly) that their credits would be divided by 3.5 to get the number of credits they would receive. The only paperwork available to transfer students on Admitted Students Day bolstered this claim, saying only, “3.5 semester units equal 1 Mills credit,” and gives no indication that classes would be counted as only .75 credits.
We can assume that Mills is not deliberately cheating students out of credits to make money, but the college would never have such a convoluted process for transferring credits if it costs the school.
As things stand, there’s little institutional incentive to change the existing system when it almost always finds in favor of students staying longer and paying more tuition.
If these problems are the result of poor planning, Mills owes it to its students and its own reputation to overhaul the system immediately.
However, if Mills believes the system is valid, the college should openly discuss the credit transfer process with prospective students-and take the consequences if they decide to go elsewhere.