Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

The state of Oregon is home to 24 different universities and community colleges, and a new bill in the state’s legislature proposes improvements to the process of transferring credits and courses between them.

The bill, S.B. 730 (and its identical partner in the house, H.B. 2028), would make several changes to the state’s “Transfer Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities,” originally passed in 2011 and modified in 2017, according to state information on the bill.

Proposed changes include the expansion of an advisory group and a new online system for transfer students to visualize their transition between universities and degrees in the state. An amendment to the bill, adopted by the senate education committee, adds a section to “minimize the complexity” of the processes.

“The philosophical underpinning of our transfer work is that we were essentially [going] to build straighter roads for students,” said Kyle Thomas, director of legislative and policy affairs for the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, which oversees colleges and universities in Oregon.

The proposal builds on the legislature’s work in 2017 with H.B. 2998, which established a system of “core transfer maps” and “major transfer maps.” Those maps set foundational curriculum that could transfer to any Oregon community college or public university and set major-specific curriculum for the same purpose, according to background on that bill.

The goal of those transfer maps was to simplify the process of transferring between any of Oregon’s higher education institutions, Thomas said. Previously, students had to transfer between colleges and universities that already had agreements between them, which means risking losing credit for classes students already took.

In 2017, by approving H.B. 2998,the legislature sought to reduce a growing trend of credit loss among students who transferred between community colleges and universities in Oregon.

According to the HECC, more than 60 percent of transfer students lost some credits when they changed schools, and 35 percent lost more than one term’s worth of coursework.

The 2017 changes have shown state leaders that the process still has room to improve, Thomas said. That includes the plan for a “student portal,” an online resource where students interested in transferring between institutions would be able to input their intended college and major and receive a personalized course plan.

“It turns out that getting all of the institutions’ systems that the registrars use to be able to interpret all of the information in the correct way is a really complicated technical challenge,” Thomas said. “That’s part of the reason we need a student portal.” 

All told, the bill to create that portal and continue the process of creating the major transfer maps would cost the state about $1 million over the next two years, according to the most recent fiscal impact statement for the bill. That new funding, Thomas said, would have to come from the legislature and, therefore, state taxpayers.

Aside from the cost to the state, the University of Oregon may also face increased costs associated with faculty traveling to participate in coordination meetings as new “major transfer maps” are discussed and agreed on by the state’s 24 community colleges and universities. The cost to the university, according to the impact statement, would be about $10,000 per year.

While Portland Community College, the Oregon Community College Association and the Oregon Student Association each submitted statements in support of the bill, no public universities submitted a similar statement in support of or against the bill.

Molly Blancett, the UO’s spokesperson, said UO supports the “underlying intent of smooth pathways to college for all students” and appreciated the opportunity to contribute to amendments to the bill.

Correction on Monday afternoon: A previous version of this article misspelled Thomas' last name. 

Zack Demars is a reporter for the Daily Emerald covering administration and tuition. He's into politics, people and black coffee. You should send him tips, pictures of your dog or your favorite vegetarian recipes at [email protected]

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