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As four-year college degrees grow more costly in Texas, state leaders have encouraged students to consider a cheaper solution — spending the first two years at a local community college.
But many students who have heeded that advice have hit a frustrating roadblock: When they transfer to a four-year school, their course credits don't always come along with them.
Classes taken to save cash end up being a waste of money.
The problem is vexing for state lawmakers, who say they receive calls year after year from angry students and parents. An estimated two-fifths of Texas students lose all of their credits when they transfer schools, according to Texas-based foundation. That helps add up to about $60 million in wasted tuition payments in the state each year.
This legislative session, lawmakers are in search of a true fix. “We’re going to try to do something that we haven’t been able to do in the last 20 years,” said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.
Late last month, Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson asked West to lead a working group on the issue. Nelson, a Republican from Flower Mound, said she and other legislators were “growing impatient” with the schools’ inability to solve the problem.
There's no easy solution. Higher education experts and officials cast the blame up and down the community college-to-university pipeline. And in Texas, home to dozens of colleges and university systems with their own chains of command, there’s no single person with the power to make a statewide fix. No state agency has the authority to enforce rules on transferability, and degree plans can differ within university departments — let alone among different schools.
“We have a state in which we have a plethora of systems and colleges that are very used to operating independently,” Rex Peebles, an assistant commissioner at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, told lawmakers recently. “But they also have different missions and goals in mind, and their curriculum tends to reflect that.”