Six years of credits, no degree

After earning six years of college credits, Sharon Miller hasn’t finished a four-year degree. Kevin Carey, who met Miller when she interned at Education Sector, tells the story.

Sharon didn’t expect to be at Kent State long — she had three semesters at Cedarville under her belt, plus the (two-year) degree from Akron. That seemed awfully close to four years.

But the process of transferring those credits to Kent State quickly turned into a maze. In theory there were advisers to help. But Sharon had a full-time job, and the advising office was open only during the day. She tried to go on her lunch hour, but they were closed for lunch. She sent e-mail messages and left voice mails but most were never returned.

Miller had taken several classes at Cedarville, a Baptist university, with “Christian” or “Bible” in the course name. None of those were accepted. Kent State also rejected “the vast majority” of University of Akron credits.

In total, she had earned 70 college credits — over two years’ worth — that had disappeared as if they had never been.

The reluctance to grant credit vanished once Miller was paying Kent State for the privilege, Carey writes. Miller was given three upper-division “Writing Seminar” credits for writing press releases for a church camp and promised 15 upper-division credits for a summer internship at Ed Sector.

Kent State appears to have no problem letting Sharon write tuition checks for credit when the experience in question involves little or no cost or work on the part of Kent State.

Miller dropped Spanish II when her advisor and her panish teacher told her she could test out of the foreign-language requirement. The testing center said no.

Now Sharon has to take Spanish II, III, and IV, consecutively, over the next three semesters. Because the job market doesn’t pay much for people without college credentials, Sharon has to take out student loans. But you can’t take out a government loan for one course per semester. So Sharon will pick up a minor in political science, and earn another 22 credits above the 175 she already has. It will cost her thousands of dollars and delay graduation by a year, all so she can learn enough Spanish to order dinner or read a middle-school textbook in Guadalajara, neither of which she wants to do.

“Our postsecondary system is phenomenally wasteful, inflexible, and inefficient in the way it awards and exchanges higher-education currency (credits) and turns that currency into assets (degrees),” Carey writes. We need “public-minded organizations that have the credibility and financial incentives to award credit based on rigorous standards of evidence.”

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    The difficulty with judging Kent State’s actions and inactions stems from uncertainty as to who is the customer here.
    From Kent State’s pov, it’s Kent State.

  2. This story is all too close to what’s going on at California’s community colleges and the UCs.

  3. Charles R. Williams says:

    I am familiar with Kent State as a parent and as the spouse of a student. Kent State is a disorganized mess with respect to academic advising and any other bureaucratic matter. For some reason they are very hard to deal with as compared to – let’s say – Ohio University. When you call KSU you rarely get a knowledgeable person who can give you a definitive answer, always the run around.

  4. I wonder if they accept CLEP exams. Seems like a simple way to get around requirements.

  5. Answering my own question: Kent State offers credit for the CLEP Spanish exam. If I’m reading the chart correctly, a score of 50 is equivalent to Spanish I and II and 8 credits at Kent; a score of 63 equivalent to Spanish I, II, III, and IV and an additional 6 credits on top of the first 8 for a total of 14.

    CLEP would be a much less costly and probably less time consuming way to approach the language requirement.

    Here’s the chart:

  6. Perhaps people should listen to what Marty Nemko is saying about a bachelor’s degree (which is that it is the most OVERRATED product in America). The bachelor’s degree today is more like a “license to get a job” when in fact that if our public school system did a much better job, most of the jobs which are currently posted as wanting a bachelor’s degree could be filled by high school graduates with on the job training (short or long term).

    College today is a money making business, which turns out a product which is more often than not misused by HR departments for screening job applicants (thank Griggs vs Duke Power for that one folks).

    Everyone should watch the John Stossel piece “is a college degree worth it?” (eye opening to say the least.

  7. Everyone should watch John Stossel if they want to see dishonest hackery.

    As to the point of this thread, academic advising is the great variable in finishing a degree in good order. Good advising matters enormously, especially in programs leading to state licensure.

  8. Mike, rather than just an assertion, perhaps you could provide a scintilla of information that illustrates Stossel’s dishonesty. You need to back up your ad hominem.

  9. I agree with Stacy, Mr. Stossel provides factual information, and analysis to back up his story on “Is college a ripoff?” and “Stupid in America” (which is a very damning expose on the farce known as our public school system in the United States).

    I suppose Mike also thinks the report “A nation at risk” (early 1980’s) is dishonest as well. Given what I seen from high school and many college graduates today, it is amazing the lack of knowledge that many of these graduates have.

    I know, lets use the old mantra, lets throw more money at it. I have to pay taxes to support the education system and as a private citizen, if I don’t like the level of service I get at a restaurant, I go somewhere else (it’s called having a choice).

    Unfortunately, taxpayers don’t get that choice, and for all the money we spend as a nation on education (which is more than ANY other nation on earth), it’s amazing that countries like singapore, south korea, china, japan, finland, belgium, and others routinely kick our butts in international testing in math and science.

    Where can I go to get a refund for the tax dollars I’ve spent on education in the last 17 years (12 years after I graduated from high school, so that I paid MY obligation to the next generation of persons to attend our pulblic schools).


  10. Also, studies have shown that approximately 40-45% of the persons who attend college will NEVER finish a degree within six to eight years.

    Additionally, if you are in the bottom 40% of your high school graduating class, there is a high possibility that you will never finish a degree of any sort (regardless of what college you might be admitted to).

    The sooner parents and teenagers realize that college is by definition a money making business, perhaps the sham they’re pulling can be exposed for good.

  11. I am a college prof. I often advise students, including lots of transfer students. While some of the credit-denial here looks hinky (I used to live near both Akron and Kent State and am surprised KSU wouldn’t accept transfer credits from Akron), there are cases where a class with a certain title isn’t comparable to YOUR CAMPUS’ class with the same title.

    We’ve had problems with students coming in from some other schools with what are supposedly the pre-requisites for our more advanced classes, and it turns out that they lack the knowledge and background that they should have gotten (even students with high earned GPAs from those schools.)

    It can be a real challenge to advise students well: some schools do get a reputation for turning out underprepared students, but then the students get upset when you advise them to take our version of the introductory classes.

    I try to ask students “Are you familiar with X Y and Z (major topics in the classes that they should know)?” But if it’s Transfer Day and you’re mandated to run 10 students through your office that morning (or whatever), there isn’t time.

    I do think placement exams help enormously. I wish that students wanting to transfer credit from “unknown” schools had to take placement exams. (Heck, I’d like to see it made available for all transfer students)

  12. Roger Sweeny says:


    Placement exams are an intriguing idea. It got me thinking: why stop at transfers? Why not have placement exams for all basic (and even not so basic) courses?

    I wonder if, after a while, nationwide exams would develop. People could take them no matter where they were attending college–or whether they were attending at all.

    If the purpose of college is acquiring knowledge–and having that acquisition certified–these could eventually replace spending time on campus for a large number of students.

    If …


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