Last week I explored the general education requirements Rhode Island College has put in place for students and compared them to requirements at the University of Rhode Island. My main goal was to understand exactly what is expected of students and how those expectations were developed. This research has helped me think about how students are affected by general education requirements in different ways.
I started with my own personal experience, which is what prompted me to start this investigation. I came to RIC in the Fall of 2017 after graduating high school in the Spring. My RIC transcript shows my first semester at RIC being Fall of 2016 as I accumulated transfer credits during my final year of high school. In total, 11 credits were awarded to me for taking a Calculus course, Spanish and Literature. I was told from the beginning that these credits were fulfilling three of the necessary requirements for the general education program. It wasn’t until almost two years later that I found out only my Spanish credits would earn me general education program fulfillment. After a hard fought battle, I was granted transfer credits for the Calculus course to fulfill the general education requirement in Mathematics just a few weeks ago. I now find myself taking 22 credits this semester and taking a four credit Literature class I didn’t plan after my unsuccessful attempt to get general education fulfillment.
As you can imagine, this process was painful. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, as many transfer students struggle with similar issues. I spoke with a student who attended classes at the Community College of Rhode Island for two years before transferring to RIC. He was discouraged by the amount of courses counted as elective credits. In many programs at RIC, elective credits are necessary but not in the quantity most transfer students experience. It is not uncommon for college students to take many of their general education courses during the first few semesters of their college career, making credit loss after transfer more detrimental to their graduation. Transfer Students often find themselves backtracking in their programs to take general education courses once again, or stuffing their schedules full of courses to avoid a late graduation.
After understanding how the general education program works to give students a rich background in many core areas of learning, I see how important it is to fulfill the requirements. But to what degree can we tell students they must take RIC’s version of a literature class instead of the course they took at CCRI? Personally, I have had wonderful experiences with the general education courses I have taken at RIC, including the Literature class I didn’t expect to take. However, I can’t help but feel upset by the unwillingness of RIC to accept transfer credit.
There must be a way to re-evaluate how students can demonstrate their proficiency in the corresponding learning outcomes expected in a general education course to earn credit. There are many students who feel discouraged by the extra semester or two added to their plan of study simply because their transfer credits turned out to be electives. If we can educate students about what is expected of them and find a system of evaluation for transfer courses, students will be able to graduate on time and feel excited about coming to RIC.