Intra-University Transfer Policy at its Best for Students? For the Administration?

Soon to be approved, a dramatic change in BU’s Intra-University Transfer requirements strives to bring the needs of students to the forefront of university policy after years of abiding by antiquated and unequal standards.  Yet, the new policy offers enough wiggle room for BU’s colleges that it might not put students first.

For the past few decades, academic requirements for the hundreds of students wishing to switch from one BU college to another, known as an Intra-University Transfer, have been determined individually by each college and school at BU, according to BU administration.  Because of this, schools set standards varying from SHA’s 2.0 overall GPA and C or higher in Introduction to the Hospitality Industry, to COM’s 2.7 overall GPA, 3.0 GPA in all COM courses, and B or higher in Introduction to Communication Writing. [See graphic for what each of the standards currently are.]

In order to equalize transfer requirements within BU, the University is now in the process of approving a policy that mandates a 2.0 overall GPA for transfers into all colleges and schools, said Victor Coelho, BU’s Associate Provost of Undergraduate Education.

In the works since 2007, the Intra-University Transfer universal GPA initiative is currently in the hands of the University Council Committee on Admissions and Enrollment Policy, according to an email from the Committee’s chair Dr. Laurie Pohl.

“Following many discussions on this topic held during the previous academic year, the president [of BU] asked the committee to facilitate development of a policy that would reflect the desired result,” Pohl said.

Once in policy format, the initiative is anticipated to be approved this Spring and implemented by Fall 2011, according to Coelho.

Infographic by Allan Lasser

Student’s Journey to Transferring

When she entered BU as a CAS undeclared freshmen in 2008, Robin Panish (SMG ’12) planned on majoring in psychology and advertising, but her first classes made her realize that the two majors were not what she originally anticipated.

“My psych course that I took, I liked it, but it wasn’t what I hoped it to be,” said Panish.  “And I kind of realized that psychology you go to school for eight to nine years for very little job security.”

First semester of her sophomore year, Panish joined the rest of SMG Intra-University Transfer candidates by taking SM 299, Management as a System.  The mandated course consists of four hours of lecture and three hours of discussion a week for only six credits, while students who started in SMG as freshmen were able to take the same required course over two semesters in SM 121 and SM 122.

After successfully completing the course, Panish officially transferred into SMG during the second semester of her sophomore year.  Since then, she has noticed an enjoyable change in her undergraduate experience.

“It’s not even a competitive need to try more, but when you’re doing something you’re interested in it shows in your grades,” she said.

Inconsistent Standards for Students

By examining the current policies and creating the forthcoming initiative, a number of barriers in the way of students wishing to pursue their studies in a different college or school have been brought to light.

Among these challenges, current Intra-University Transfer policies discriminate between CGS and non-CGS students wishing to be admitted into another college or school.  For almost every BU college and school, the requirements for non-CGS students wishing to transfer are significantly higher than requirements for CGS students.  For example, CGS students need only a 2.3 GPA and a C or better in Management as a System and Financial Accounting, a full letter grade and 0.4 GPA points lower than their other Intra-University Transfer peers.

Because CGS is the only two-year college at BU, CGS students who maintain at least a 2.0 GPA are guaranteed transfer to another college or school in order to complete their college degrees.

“The historic reason for [these requirements] is that our students had to be able to transfer somewhere,” said CGS Associate Dean Robert Oresick.  “They need to have a smooth continuation into another school, and shouldn’t be asked more of than students already held in there.”

Due to the fact that transfer into CGS is allowed, it is theoretically possible for a student to transfer into CGS only to continue into another school under lower requirements, said Oresick, although he is unaware if a student has ever done so before.

While a number of administrators in BU’s colleges and schools stated that holding a standard GPA requirement for Intra-University Transfer candidates without exception allowed the college or school to remain “fair” and “consistent” for all candidates, they said that the continuation of lower standards for CGS students for decades can only be explained by the fact that it is just the way things are arranged at the University.

“[The current arrangement between COM and CGS is] just the agreement that the College of General Studies has with our school.  Unfortunately there’s not a better answer,” said Micha Sabovik, COM’s Assistant Dean of Student Services.

But CGS students are not the only ones with an advantage over Intra-University Transfer candidates.  Students admitted into BU’s colleges and schools as freshmen are also held to lower academic standards than those demanded of Intra-University transfer applicants.  In order to remain in good academic standing in any college or school, students must maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA or higher.  Some schools also require their students to obtain certain passing grades in specific introductory courses that are often lower than the required grades for Intra-University Transfer candidates.

These inconsistencies between academic requirements for students throughout BU have remained in spite of the fact that there is scholastic evidence proving that students can often improve academically after changing to a preferring academic focus, according to Coelho.

Student’s Attempts to Transfer Lead to Challenges

Jessica Lee (CAS ’13) entered BU as an undeclared CAS freshman last year because she was not completely sure about what she wanted to focus on in college.  During her first semester, Lee was drawn towards a future in COM after looking over her roommate’s COM classwork, and soon fell head over heels for advertising and marketing.  But after a rough freshman year while making the transition to college, Lee’s GPA failed to meet COM’s Intra-University Transfer requirements.  As a sophomore this semester, Lee is overloading and fighting to overcome a GPA dragged down by struggles during her first year of college.

“I don’t really care so much about the other classes because I’m so stressed about about doing well in my COM class.  And I don’t think it should be that way,” she said.  “It’s almost like saying your future career, your future degree, your future major can be affected by one test or a midterm.”

Advantages for the Administration

Amid these unequal discrepancies between students, the current Intra-University Transfer policies do provide advantages for colleges and schools by enabling administrations to protect resources, control the profile of enrolled students, and maintain the college’s or school’s prestige, according to BU administrators.

By individually setting Intra-University Transfer qualifications, colleges and schools are able to either set high requirements, and therefore limit the number of students able transfer and save resources for current students, or contrastingly set low requirements in order to attract students that were unable to transfer into first choice colleges or schools with higher requirements, said Coelho.

This trend was highlighted in the One BU: Unlocking the Undergraduate Experience Task Force Report, which analyzed a variety of challenges facing undergraduate students at BU and also urged for a change in Intra-University Transfer policy.

“The ‘no resources’ argument should not be used aprioristically to exclude students,” according to the Task Force Report.

In addition to determining where resources were designated among students, current policy also allows colleges and schools to select the academic quality of their students.  Requiring a higher GPA of Intra-University Transfer students allows colleges and schools to increase the academic caliber of their students.

“I believe whenever [COM’s Intra-University Transfer requirements were] first passed, the faculty’s intent was to make sure that we were getting the best possible students because they feel that our COM students are such high achieving students in their own right,” said Sabovik.

Until recently, COM maintained a 3.0 GPA requirement, the highest GPA requirement for Intra-University Transfer students at BU.  This semester, COM aligned its GPA requirement with that of SMG and ENG to a 2.7 in preparation for the forthcoming shift in Intra-University policy.

Setting specific GPA requirements additionally reflects some colleges’ and schools’ concerns about prestige.

CAS established a 2.3 GPA requirement due to fears of being seen as a “default college” if the college admitted students based on a low Intra-University Transfer GPA requirement, according to CAS Associate Dean of Student Academic Life Steven Jarvi.  However, Jarvi also believes that an elevated reputation for a college or school results in students’ degrees holding more weight.

Why Now?

After decades of the same policy, the University’s examination of current Intra-University Transfer policies and subsequent proposal of the universal GPA have resulted from a shift in BU’s overall perspective of undergraduate education, said Coelho.  According to him, the University is currently favoring a more centralized process that allows more flexibility for students, rather than the previous undergraduate culture where students committed to a major early in college.

“When you are a BU student, you are a BU student.  Not a CFA student, not a CFA student,” Coelho said.

New Policy

As a result of the current Intra-University Transfer discrepancies, the universalized 2.0 GPA standard is designed with the intention of eliminating challenges within the undergraduate experience at BU, said Coelho.  By requiring a uniform 2.0 GPA, the new policy would align the Intra-University Transfer GPA requirement with that of BU’s graduation GPA requirement and qualifications for good academic standing.

The University has reassured administrators that resources will be assigned according to increases or decreases in colleges’ and schools’ populations that will result from new trends in Intra-University Transfers, said Coelho.

“[The new policy is] going to be a bit of a resource stretch but…so long as we are able to expand the pie in a way that everybody who comes here has a good experience and has a good education, that’s our goal,” said SMG’s Director of Undergraduate Programs Norm Blanchard.

Why the Uniform GPA May Not Be Enough

However, in spite of a universal 2.0 GPA Intra-University Transfer requirement throughout BU, colleges and schools will still be able to set other academic-based transfer requirements with what is called “gateway criteria”, said Pohl.

“These criteria may be courses that a student must take and pass before transferring or, in the case of CFA, an audition, portfolio, or both…So, yes, schools and colleges will be able to establish criteria in addition to the GPA (they do so now); however, the policy guidance is clear that these should be minimal and tied to program requirements. In other words, we don’t want to substitute one set of barriers for another!” said Pohl in her e-mail.

A number of administrators said that the colleges and schools intend to require specific grades in gateway courses, yet, these grade requirements will be mandatory for all students: students in the college or school, Intra-University Transfer candidates, and CGS continuation candidates.

But even with the new Intra-University Transfer policy, Coelho remains convinced that schools will find alternative ways of to determining their enrollment numbers and the academic quality of their students through grade requirements and gateway criteria.

About Rachel Stine

Rachel Stine (COM'12) is the Campus Editor for the Quad. She loves sailing the uncharted waters of BU's campus goings-on to uncover some of its deepest secrets and hidden treasures.

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