Transfer credit policy should be reanalyzed

One of the major contentions in the university setting is that transfer students, specifically from community colleges, have a seemingly unfair advantage over admits that have been at the same university all along. Academically, they seem to be given a “fast pass” to success at the university level: Their easier course credits transfer, along with their GPA based on these courses.

The student who has dutifully studied USC-level course material from freshman year onward might feel undercut with regard to the university’s treatment of these transfers.

Understandably, the decision to transfer is a multifaceted issue and must be approached as such. One would be hard pressed to find someone who resents another student solely because he was a transfer student. But presently, the benefits granted to community college transfers greatly outweigh those granted to students who have attended a four-year university since their first semester of postsecondary education.

Four-year USC students are unfairly restricted in their ability to pursue outside academic options.

Katherine Koehler, a freshman spring admit majoring in art history, attended a junior college the semester before coming to USC. She described her classes there as “really easy,” saying, “the level of difficulty wasn’t up to par with USC’s.”

As the “Transferring to USC” brochure claims, “Seventy-five percent of your transferable courses should satisfy General Education or other core requirements, or subject prerequisites for your intended major.” Now, those of us who have taken G.E.s at USC or other prerequisite courses know they are some of the more difficult classes most have to attend. It would be a considerable boon to be able to take these at an easier level.

The university holds inconsistent principles with regard to these courses: On the one hand, it encourages transfer students and spring admits to knock out as much of the core as possible before coming to the university, while on the other, those already enrolled at the university may no longer take core courses anywhere but USC.

So what then should the university change? Is it fair to demand that a student transferring in his junior year retake what amounts to a year’s worth of classes? We could call it a penalty on the indecisive, but this doesn’t take into account exceptional cases where students planned to transfer all along. In addition, implementing this policy would place extra strain on the university in that it would have to open up a substantially larger number of slots in G.E. courses to accommodate transfers who would most likely be learning redundant material anyway.

Also, we must consider this issue from the perspective of transfer students. If they go to community college with the ultimate plan of transferring into ’SC, what classes should they take to prepare? G.E.s seem the most logical choice; these are less relevant to their majors, so the transition between community college and USC should be correspondingly less important.

The solution then should be to allow all students to fulfill G.E. requirements at USC or elsewhere so that those who want to capitalize on the less strenuous curricula of community colleges would be able to do so. Students who enter as freshmen in the fall should not be punished for their timely matriculation, and neither should transfers be punished for planning ahead academically.

In this way, everyone wins; because all options are available, everyone can choose what best suits him or her.

Reid Roman is a freshman majoring in industrial and systems engineering.

14 replies
  1. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Wow, I cannot believe how negative the comments are. Reid, you’re absolutely right – it makes no sense that once you’re admitted to USC you can no longer take any GEs outside of the school, yet transfers can bring in all (or most?) of their GEs!

    I’m sorry, but I’ve attended courses over summers at community colleges and they are not usually as difficult as USC courses.

    USC needs to level the playing field so that all students can take advantage of the low-cost opportunities available at community colleges.

    • Justin
      Justin says:

      Community college is a joke. I don’t know why USC wants these transfer students. They don’t curve grades at community college, the exams are easier than when I was in high school, and like 90% of the students there fall asleep or don’t show up to class. I know, I took a foreign language class (because my g/f is Japanese) there last fall at Santa Monica College because I don’t want to pay the tuition here, nor does my major require it. I didn’t even study and aced that class, that’s how EASY their academic standards are.

      These double standards must end.

  2. Louis "D" Mane
    Louis "D" Mane says:

    I entered USC as a transfer with a combination of CC classes and four year credits, but most of my credits came from a four year school ranked far lower than USC. To my surprise I ended up graduating with a significantly higher USC GPA than my transfer GPA I came in with. Perhaps I was more driven, passionate and motivated in those two years and a half year at ‘SC. Nevertheless, some of the classes I’ve taken prior to transfer were just as rigorous if not more than those I took at ‘SC. In addition in my major, I had to completely retake all the classes I had taken in the same major at my prior school. So I gave up a lot just to be a Trojan. It was very redundant and mind numbing to have to retake the same crap over. So don’t judge and say its easier for transfers. Many of us have a chip on our shoulder and weren’t as privileged as you who entered as freshmen. We had to hustle hard and never give up to fulfill our dreams of making it to a top tier school. On a final note, I am proud to be one of those statistics from studies that show that transfer students perform at least as well if not better than their peers.

    To all those who endured the strugle, sacrifice and process of transferring and earning Trojan Laurels, Fight on!! The world is yours!!!

  3. Thin Skin
    Thin Skin says:

    Geez, this guy is good at sensationalizing his article. Oh my GOSH!!!! Look at all these indignant responses!

    Hey people, just chill. This guy is probably ROFL.

  4. Tim
    Tim says:

    As a JC student who has worked his ass off to get a 3.9+ gpa just so I might have a slight chance at being admitted as a junior transfer this next fall, I am incredibly insulted by this article. As a non-traditional student, I had no choice but to enroll at a JC first before transferring to a 4 year as no 4 year would admit me as a freshman.

    I really hope that the rest of the USC student body does not share the same opinion expressed by the author of this Article.

  5. Wow
    Wow says:

    As a recent alumnus who happened to transfer to USC, I am thoroughly insulted by this article. I could go over the fundamental flaws of the argument, but previous commentators have pretty much covered all the bases. Instead, I would like to offer a word of advice. In your future, before you start bashing any idea, topic, etc. be extra sure to have all the facts, and at least understand the opposing side of an argument. Although I am sure you did not mean to, you just alienated an important part of the USC family, insulted many of your peers, and embarrassed the university with an article that reads more like it came from a High School Freshman.

    Fight On Reid!

  6. Pam
    Pam says:

    No one is twisting anyone’s arm to come to USC as a freshman. If you believe you can get a better deal, ie: easier classes/inflated GPA at a JC, then GO FOR IT! I’m sure if you took a poll of community college transfer students at USC, the majority would prefer the timely matriculation you speak of, if given the opportunity. There are pros and cons to each side and I believe the university has done a fair job in evening out the scales rather than tipping them any further in favor of incoming freshmen, who already have a leg up by being admitted as freshmen.

  7. Anna
    Anna says:


    Perhaps before you go bashing the transfer system, you should take your time and actually interview more than one person who has transferred to USC, and not simply a Spring Admit. You clearly have not done your research. I attended a 4 year college for one semester, realized it was not the school for me, enrolled in a JC, and finally transferred to SC in my Junior year. You think all that was easy? Imagine the application process you went through in high school….now imagine doing that not once, but two more times. Picking classes that would transfer over was not an easy process either. Is it wrong to want to take GE’s that transfer over so that I won’t be stuck paying USC tuition when I’m a 6th year undergrad? As a freshman I do not really feel that you should be writing an article like this. You have been in college for 7 months. I have been in college for almost 4 years. Congratulations on being accepted the first time around, but please do not lump all “transfers” together and assume the process was easy. I really wish you would have interviewed me first and gotten a real perspective on the situation.

  8. Kate
    Kate says:

    Can you support the claim that transfer credits almost always meet requirements for a USC major or GE course? There’s a difference between receiving units and opting out of a GE category like Arts and Letters. In this sense, transfers are at a huge disadvantage. California community colleges have paths designed to help their students transfer to a UC or CSU, and these schools have completely different GE requirements then USC. A transfer student can come into USC and be forced to take entirely GE’s and classes toward their major, as they have used all their elective credit that could have gone to a minor or double major.
    Most significantly, I think the premise of this article is fundamentally flawed. If transfer students liked taking easy classes and getting A’s then they would never have transferred in the first place. Believe it or not, some people chose USC not just for how it looks on their resume, but because of what they can gain from their courses. Any freshman admitted Trojan wanting to take community college classes rather then take advantage of the wealth of academic resources at hand probably should just drop out, save their money, and give their spot to someone who actually wants it.

  9. aintmadatcha
    aintmadatcha says:

    Mr. Roman, I commend you for entering USC as a freshman. It clearly demonstrates that you achieved both a competitive GPA and SAT score during high school, and, that you must’ve done lots of extracurriculars. And, I agree that incoming freshmen got it tougher than jr. college (JC) transfers. I’m a “lowly” JC-transfer and I did have an inflated GPA at JC. Yeah, the academic rigor, standards and competition here contrasts dramatically with that of a JC. But, what you you overlook are the advantages that incumbent udergrads like you have over typical JC-transfers. You guys/gals are showed the ropes and conditioned with “real” college life i.e. dorms, parties, developing friends since freshmen year, getting the upperhand on extracurriculars and internships, and so forth. We, at JC, or should I say? “quasi-high school” wannabe college don’t experience all that.

    So, before you act all supercilious towards JC-transfers, and how they get the easy-route into ‘SC, think of all the advantages you have over them.

    • Mr. Huey
      Mr. Huey says:

      Haha good point – “aintmadatcha”
      Those who start as freshmen over here have a really big advantage in terms of the college freshman experience, and the diversity of friends they have. JC is full of part-time students, and it is a bit difficult to make friends from the class. When you transfer into USC, and decide to live in an apartment, you realize that most of the friends you make are based on your field of study.

  10. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    My kids have both attended community college before attending USC. Overall, they found the coursework and competition very easy at community college. My daughter said she was “amazed” that she got an A in Anthro with almost “no work” and an A in English composition easily, with little work

    My youngest child just began going to community college this year. So far, in one of his classes, the instructor has unilaterally “cancelled” three sessions so far due to personal business. There are no subs in the system as they “can’t afford” subs according to the head of the department. She told me “this will never happen again” then we got an email the following week of another class being cancelled.

    In all my years at uni i do not recall profs cancelling classes like this.

    This is not to say that community colleges do not have pluses. My youngest son has been pleased and happy there minus the cancellations.

  11. John
    John says:

    I agree. Reid, your reporting is simply shoddy on this one. First of all, transfers do not get to keep there GPA when they transfer, so there is no “unfair” advantage as you say. The university policy is that a transfer student’s USC GPA will be the LOWER of either his university GPA or the combination of his university GPA and transfer GPA. So , once at USC, a transfer is on the same level with everyone who has already matriculated.
    Secondly, your shoddy journalism makes no mention of how difficult it is to transfer to USC in the first place. This has nothing to do with “easy” courses. Transfer students apply like everyone else and are not admitted simply because they have a high GPA and took these so called “easy” courses.
    Third, simply because a student takes a class at a community college does not mean that it will even transfer. Community colleges and the university have carefully scrutinized the curriculum, and only when USC’s exacting standards have been met does the university add a course to its articulation agreement for that respective course and school.

    In the future, do your homework before you write an article. I know being a freshman in industrial and systems engineering is difficult and time consuming, but this is no excuse for your laziness when writing this article.

  12. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    Reid, you should stick to industrial and systems engineering, because journalism is clearly not in your future.

    As a transfer student myself, I find this article completely ridiculous. You use one students personal experience to come to an overly general and incorrect assumption.

    Some classes taken at Community College are very easy, just like some classes taken at USC. Some classes taken at USC are very hard, just like some classes taken at Community College.

    To categorically decree that all classes taken at California Community Colleges are somehow inferior to those taken at USC for the sole reason that this IS the University of Southern California is short sighted, ignorant, and ultimately, incorrect.

    Reid, you clearly have no concept of articulation agreements and petitions. As a transfer student, I was required to petition the University to accept Community College credit for certain courses by submitting a course syllabus and sample coursework. Classes that were deemed inadequate, I did not receive credit for.

    The University of Southern California is one of the premier academic institutions in the country. However, it is naive for Reid, and others, to systematically assume that ALL classes taken at California Community Colleges are inadequate and that this somehow punishes freshman admits. Reid fails to realize that freshman admits have a huge advantage over transfer students when it comes to forming relationships with professors and academic advisers, acquiring campus housing, and getting a job on campus.

    The assumption that the perceived “advantage” gained by Community College transfer students somehow outweighs the many advantages of being a freshman admit is unfounded and irresponsible. The way the University currently handles transfer credits is sensible, adequate, and fair.

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