All voting members of the Oregon House and Senate affirmed House Bill 2998 this summer. The bill was drafted to make college credits more transferable between public colleges.
Governor Kate Brown signed HB 2998 into law on August 8, and the bill is planned to be implemented in college’s curricula in the Fall 2018 academic term. Requirements for an associate’s degree currently shift depending on the specific college, leaving students to repeat course they have already passed or enter upper level courses without adequate preparation.
According to Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s
2017 Legislative Summary: “The bill establishes a path toward a guaranteed portfolio of transferable credits between any Oregon community college and any Oregon public university. In pursuit of this goal, the bill first requires the establishment of a 30 credit foundational curricula.”
Foundational curricula largely refer to courses and course outcomes of general education. As a result, the bill most directly will impact first-year college students. The first application of foundational curricula is slated to be established in Fall 2018 according to UCC’s Dean of Student Services April Hamlin and UCC Advising and Transfer Specialist Les Rogers.
Hamlin has optimism about the potential positive changes that could arise from HB 2998 and the inclusiveness of those working on the bill’s implementation. Hamlin said that the bill may shit college’s focus from course numbers students must complete to course outcomes.
“No one knows exactly what this will look like but foundational curricula will entail beyond that it is supposed to be 30 credits,” said Hamlin, “What I’m hearing right now, and this could change, is that they’re leaning more towards outcomes and less toward classes.”
Course outcomes of a class refer to the knowledge base and skills that a student should have by the end of a course. While systematizing this in a way that independent institutions can measure would be a major challenge to coordinate, such a system could potentially make the transfer of credits between institutions more fluid. The transfer of credits between similar majors may eventually also be easier course outcomes.
However, there is debate as to the how effective the bill can be. Oregon House Bill 2979 passed in 2013 and outlined a plan to establish universal list of course equivalences to ensure that each course of an accredited college would be transferable to other public colleges. Section 1 of HB 2979 bill stated it would “Identify strategies to establish a common course numbering system for lower-division undergraduate courses.” However, House Bill 2979 has effectively been replaced by House Bill 2998.
“The goal of that (HB 2979) was to do universal course numbering, but what happened to it? Where did it go?” asked Rogers. Common course numbering is seen by Rogers as imperative to Oregon working out its problems concerning transfer credits.
The timing of House Bill 2998’s implementation has also raised concerns. Rogers feels doubtful of the implementation of the bill because it calls for the foundational curricula to be presented in February, months after the time-frame in which colleges can present curricula for the following year.
Rogers said that while HB 2998 is a step in the right direction, it is only a baby step. His summation on the topic of transfer credits “My goal, and I think the goal for the whole state should be to get people done quickly, affordably, don’t waste financial aid, don’t waste taxpayer dollars.”
The disorganization of transfer credits was the impetus for House Bill 2998, and the Oregon legislature deemed it a state emergency. When students have to take an inordinate amount of credits to enter and complete their requirements, student loans will increase, and more financial aid is required. Both of these financial strains impact not only students but also Oregon taxpayers as well. Similarly, the workforce suffers from having a lack of incoming applicants if students have to remain in school longer than anticipated.