A new bill in the Ohio House aims to make it easier for college students to transfer schools and graduate on time.
State Reps. Don Jones (R-95) and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-14) are sponsors of House Bill 9, the Higher Education Degree Attainment Reform bill. They say it contains common sense reforms to improve credit transfers from one public school to another. They also say it will help students who have left school determine if, with the coursework they have completed, they are eligible for an associate’s degree or job training certificate.
It would do three things:
- Require state-wide standards for general education courses. It also requires state universities to comply with those new standards and grant credit for any general education courses completed at another university that meet those standards.
- Require state universities to review student records every two years to see if certain students who are no longer enrolled might be eligible for an associate’s degree or a program certificate. If the universities find such students, they must let the students know, and must inform the Chancellor of Higher Education.
- Require higher education institutions to waive certain costs and fees for certain “final” classes required for graduation if the student was unable to enroll in that class in the student’s final year due to a lack of course availability or other circumstances beyond the student’s control.
The Chancellor of Higher Education would be responsible for creating the new state-wide standards for the general education courses.
In his sponsor testimony to the Higher Education Committee, Rep. Jones explained that two provisions in the bill will allow students to transfer their general education course credits from one public university to another, staying on track even if they have to change schools.
“Because let’s face it – life happens and students shouldn’t be penalized for what is probably a very hard decision in the first place,” he said.
He said the final class provision is necessary to address a situation many students face in what is supposed to be their last, or final, year of school.
“Sometimes a student may have one or two more courses to take, but they are not offered or the class is already full,” he explained. “What H.B. 9 does is makes it so that the student is able to pay for that class then, but may take it when it is available. The student would not have to pay any additional fees or have any extra per-credit hour charges.”
Rep. Sweeney, noting that she is one of the most recent college graduates in the General Assembly, said she has seen students “being left behind, hindered, and unable to enter into the workforce because of issues we control.”
She explained that the last provision requires an audit every two years to identify students who have not been enrolled for four or more semesters and who have not completed their bachelor’s degree. Once the students are identified, the universities must see if the courses they took meet the requirements for an associate’s degree. If so, they must inform the student.
“Sometimes life happens and plans change,” she said, “but this will benefit students by allowing them to take that associate’s degree and enter the workforce with a great job rather than having wasted time and money in school.”
Rep. Jones said he hopes this bill will help students graduate quicker.
“After 23 years in the high school classroom I’ve had a huge amount of students who have gone to college. What is unfortunate from what I’ve witnessed and in today’s society it seems to be
becoming the norm for kids not to finish their degrees in four years,” he said.
“By streamlining the transfer process and making sure more students graduate on time, we make the promise of a college education more attainable for Ohio students,” said Rep. Sweeney. “With these provisions, H.B. 9 is going to be a great asset in our continual drive to make Ohio a business friendly state where we have a great, accessible, smart workforce.”
The bill has had three hearings in the committee with no opposition or other interested party testimony. The next step is a vote by the committee.
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Maggie Leigh Thurber is a writer for The Ohio Star. Email tips to [email protected].