• January 23, 2021
 New law makes it easier for college students to avoid taking classes that won’t transfer

The Austin Community College Riverside campus. Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

New law makes it easier for college students to avoid taking classes that won’t transfer

Victoria Tintori had three criteria in mind when applying to four-year universities: cost, distance from her family, and — most importantly — whether or not the school would take the 65 college credits she’d already accrued at Austin Community College.

When it came time to transfer, the 21-year-old psychology major from Dallas was deciding between Texas State University and St. Edward’s University. Her decision was made after St. Edward’s didn’t accept the two years of American Sign Language she’d taken as part of her foreign language credit.

“It’s two years’ worth of work,” Tintori said. “Which I guess isn’t a big deal for them, but it’s a big deal for me.”

Tintori is part of a growing number of students turning to community colleges for the first two years of their education, as four-year degrees in Texas become increasingly costly. But many of these students face an additional hurdle come transfer time: classes they’ve taken often don’t end up counting toward their degree.

“[Students are] frustrated. A lot of times they feel confused, but they kind of put it on themselves. Like, ‘Oh I could have done more.’ But they’re doing so much,” said Lauren Schudde, a professor at the University of Texas Austin whose research focuses on transfer students.

The problem has vexed lawmakers for several legislative sessions. In 2017, Sen. Jane Nelson, a Republican from Flower Mound, said she and other legislators were “growing impatient” with schools’ inability to solve the problem. That year, students, parents, and the state spent a combined $60 million on course credits that wouldn’t transfer, according to data from the Texas Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

Senate Bill 25, which easily passed both chambers in the Legislature and took effect June 14 after Gov. Abbott signed it into law, aims to help students like Tintori avoid losing credits as they move through the higher education system. Lawmakers hope that by making information about courses more accessible and transparent, students can avoid paying for classes that don’t help them earn a degree.

“Can you imagine how a student who has scraped together pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, in order to pay for tuition and fees … [to] then find out that when they go to university they have to take the same course over again [must feel]?” said Sen. Royce West, a Democrat from Dallas who authored the bill.

Hundreds of new state laws take effect Sept. 1 or sooner. In this series, we take a look at a few that will impact the lives of Texans.

MORE IN THIS SERIES 

The Texas Tribune

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