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.”