Last week, the Hillsdale College administration announced that, starting with the incoming freshman class of 2023, it will only count credits earned at Hillsdale to determine a student’s registration date. All outside credits from other universities, or credits from Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams, will not count (although they will still be used to determine a student’s overall credit total).
In essence, this means that a Hillsdale student’s course registration date, or the day that you register for classes, will be based on entry year. This change will disproportionately harm transfer students.
As transfer students normally have a majority of their general education coursework completed, many are eager to start their upper-division classes. With this new change, transfer students will likely not be able to register for the upper level courses that they need, as they will have to wait to register with the class they entered with, which in most cases will be the freshman class.
“As a transfer to Hillsdale, this would have hurt my ability to finish the upper-level classes for my major,” Hillsdale alumna and transfer student Lauren Renslow ’17 said. “I went to a community college to cut down on costs, and to have those credits be looked over during my registration would have negatively impacted me. It could have even delayed my completion of my major.”
Many transfer students chose to attend community college before coming to Hillsdale to save money. This change to registration could delay the plans of transfer students and cause them to be at college longer, therefore nullifying any financial savings they had before.
“I only did four semesters at Hillsdale (for cost reasons — I was paying my way) and if I hadn’t started on upper-level classes immediately I wouldn’t have been able to graduate,” said Hillsdale alumna and transfer student Linda Edelblut ‘14.
By preventing transfer students to register according to their credit load, the college is refusing to recognize credits earned from outside institutions, and thus delegitimizing the hard work of these students. In effect, transfer students become second-class citizens where their past two years of collegiate study are suddenly erased. They will not be able to register for the upper-division classes that they need to graduate, and will be back at the bottom of the food chain with the freshmen.
“Transfer students should not be seen as ‘second-rate.’ I was 21-years-old my first semester at Hillsdale, lumped with 18-year-olds,” Renslow said. “This change would have held me back from my peers at the junior level. I understand the plight of those complaining that underclassmen having more credits puts them at an advantage during registration, but they did earn those credits. Why fault them for their work?”
Because transfer students will be set back by these changes, fewer transfers will choose to come to Hillsdale. This will be bad news for the college, given current educational trends.
Transfer students represent a sizable segment of the U.S. undergraduate population, and this segment is only growing.
According to NPR, in 2018, community colleges enrolled 41 percent of all U.S. undergraduates. And as college tuition has risen four times the rate of inflation,according to Forbes, the number of transfer students in the U.S. will increase as families choose to send their children to community college in order to avoid the exorbitant cost of attending a four-year university straight out of high school.
Hillsdale would not be exempt from this trend. More transfer students would continue to come (or not come) to Hillsdale, but they would be penalized for bringing outside credits. Hillsdale must rectify this situation by making exceptions to registration for transfer students.
Alternatively, the administration could solve existing problems with the current registration process by basing a student’s registration date on their high school graduation year. Both transfer students and upperclassmen would win in this scenario.
Whatever the administration decides to do, the work of transfer students must be legitimized. Transfer students with the same amount of credits as upperclassmen should be granted the same opportunity to take their major classes.
Hillsdale College must recognize the plight of transfer students, and it can start by granting them an exception to the new change.