Student finds credits evaporate
in transfer, virtually starts over at USU
By Irene Gudmundson
October 6, 2006 | When Preston Elizarde moved back
to Utah in 2004 to get his bachelor's degree he had
no idea he would have to start over at Utah State University.
Elizarde has an associate's degree in computer engineering
technology from Vermont Technical College and transferred
to USU as a junior with 85 credits accepted by the university.
He came to USU enrolled in the industrial engineering
computer systems major that has since been cut from
USU. He must complete 101 more credits at USU to get
a bachelor's degree in computer science.
"I believe the transfer department should be responsible
to decide which program or options should be made available
to the student so the student can decide the best course
of action," Elizarde said.
There is no separate office dedicated to transfer
services at USU, said Mindy Christensen, program coordinator
for articulation. "If students have questions we refer
them to the specific department," she said.
The articulation office receives transcripts from
students' previous colleges and universities and then
uses a list of acceptable credits from 17 in-state,
accredited schools, who have worked out an agreement
with USU for acceptable credits.
"We're basically the record-keepers," said Christensen.
The articulation office makes no decisions about whether
a class from a previous school counts for USU credit
and when the previous school is not on the list of 17,
Christensen sends the transcript directly to the department
the incoming student is planning to join and the department
goes through class by class and decides if and how the
credits will transfer.
When a school is not part of the 17, the biggest complaint
is about the length of the process, said Christensen.
After returning from a deployment with the U.S. Army
to Germany, Elizarde complains that he didn't know key
things before he got back to USU He and his wife (who
had graduated from USU in 2001) came back to USU under
the pretense that Elizarde would receive in-state tuition,
which he could not get because his wife moved back to
Vermont after graduation, canceling his residency here
"I . . . know some of the laws have been changed that
would have benefited me, but I was never informed,"
In a letter he plans on sending to USU, Elizarde lists
the exceptions to Utah's residency laws for education
purposes-dependents of full-time employees in Utah;
certain individuals transferred to Utah with full-time
employment; and special allowances for military personnel.
Instead of starting school right away, Elizarde had
to work for two years to gain residency and just recently
started classes at USU. Elizarde also received short
notice that his major had been cancelled in a letter
that followed him out to Utah during the move from Vermont.
"I was advised to go into the computer science program
here. But . . . when everything is said and done I will
[have] to complete 101 credits, while 85 were accepted,"
When his adviser did the requirement sheet, five credit
classes from Vermont Technical College counted only
as three-credit USU classes and he was forced to take
classes with the same information he already learned
in Vermont a second time at USU.
Because the articulation office deals only with the
record keeping of transfer students' transcripts, departments
and assigned advisors are the ones who work one-on-one
with students. Departments also have to decide what
they will and will not accept as credits from other
universities, which becomes very difficult and time
consuming when the university is not on the list of
17 schools with transfer agreements, said Christensen.
Despite recent changes to the organization of the
transfer department Christensen has not heard many complaints
from students. "Generally our transfer students are
happy after the articulation [process]," she said. "They're
transferring for a reason, so they've checked it out."
Elizarde has now checked out Weber State University
in Ogden, where an adviser contacted him about transfer
credits and future classes. He will be a transfer student
there in the spring.
For students interested in transferring to USU, the
transfer students' services Web site offers this advice:
* Meet with a Transfer Advisor/Counselor
* Identify a Career Path
* Research Transfer Policies
* Research Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid
* Attend Transfer Days and Fairs
* Access and Utilize Electronic Resources
* Request Information - ASK
* Question to ask Admissions
* Learn Application Procedures Christensen said the
transfer office is also working on several programs
that will be set up by the end of the year to better
help incoming students.