Press-Republican

September 3, 2013

Editorial: Roadblock removed

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Press-Republican

---- — The state of Maine is currently wrangling with a problem New York state has apparently fixed.

The problem there is that the University of Maine System does not automatically accept all transfer credits toward a degree program that a student has earned in the Maine Community College System.

That means that Maine students stay longer in college, at a significant cost to themselves, of course, but also at a significant cost to taxpayers. Taxpayers subsidize State University educations.

Besides, the longer students stay in school, the longer they are not entering the job market.

According to the advocacy group Complete College America, it takes the average full-time student 3.8 years to earn a community-college degree, which of course should take two years. A four-year bachelor’s degree takes 4.7 years, on the average.

Transferring credits can be part of the reason for the delay. Sometimes, in Maine or elsewhere, a four-year school may deem a particular course at a community college beneath its own standards and therefore will not accept the course for credit.

Students are then obliged to take the same course twice. Enough instances like that and the students can be deprived of earliest entry into a career that will make money for them, allowing them to start to pay back any loans and generate income taxes for local, state and federal governments.

New York and many other states had the same situation. But most states have seen the folly of four-year schools excluding courses that should have like standards throughout both systems.

New York now gives credit earned in a community-college associate in arts or sciences program to all students transferring on to a bachelor’s program at a State University of New York four-year college or university.

Maine is also trying to do something about this inequitable situation. The Maine Legislature this spring passed a measure giving the Community College System and the University System until 2014 to establish what is called a seamless transfer process.

It isn’t entirely for the students alone that this initiative has been taken.

Eighty-two percent of students enrolled full-time in Maine’s community colleges receive financial aid. The University System costs three times as much for a student to attend. That was one of the intentions of setting up community colleges in the first place: They are a less-expensive educational option for people with their sights set on receiving a four-year degree.

Community colleges do much more than provide the first steps toward a bachelor’s degree, of course. They are responsive to a wide range of educational needs of their communities.

But it’s also critical that the four-year education be achieved as quickly as possible.

We hope Maine and other states with this roadblock are able to eliminate it. We are especially grateful that New York already has.