UW System makes it easier to transfer among schools

UW System makes it easier to transfer among schools

Story by Debora Biasutti

When Russell Chamberlain finished his Associated Degree at the two-year campus of UW-Marathon County, he had to decide what was next in his career. After talking to a few of his professors, he decided to pursue his bachelor’s degree and began to tour around the UW System.

“My three choices were Oshkosh, Steven Points and Eau Claire,” Chamberlain said. “I’m a dual major, math and philosophy, and after talking to a few professors at UW-Marathon County, I found out that Oshkosh’s math department was lacking. So, it was between Steven Points and Eau Claire.”

After visiting the Math and the Philosophy and Religious Studies departments at Eau Claire, Chamberlain was “blown away” by the professors, he said, and decided to transfer in the fall of 2010.

Chamberlain is one of the 17,000 students who transferred to a UW System school in the 2009-2010 year. To ease the transfer of students among the UW schools and technical colleges, the UW System is working on improving the transfer of credits and putting students on a faster path to a degree.

“We’ve been working on transfer since the UW System was formed in the early 1970s,” said Janice Sheppard, the UW System’s interim assistant vice president for student affairs. “Transfers have been a focus of attention, because we are a system and we want students to move easily as they can among our own institutions and also from and to Wisconsin technical colleges.”

The UW System currently has the Transfer Information System, which is an online service that provides a whole range of general information about academic programs at various UW universities.

The system also provides specific tools to help students understand equivalencies between a course at their first institution and how that course will be accepted when they transfer to a different institution.

Sheppard said that the TSI is very helpful, but it’s not the whole story. The UW System launched a pilot last semester of a new program, called Transfer Plan, which is currently only available for people who plan to transfer to UW-Madison.

“What students really want and need is the ability to know how their individual courses will transfer into a degree program and a major at an institution,” she said. “That’s what the new Transfer Plan will provide — a way for students to know how courses will transfer and apply to a specific degree program.”

In the future, the Transfer Plan will allow students to have a ‘what if’ degree audit from any university among the UW System and see how their courses are going to apply to their intended major.

Heather Pearson, the UW-Eau Claire associate director of admissions, said that the university receives 550 to 600 students in the fall, and 200 to 300 students in the spring semester. The majority of students come from the Chippewa Technical College, she said, and from the two-year campuses around the area, such as UW-Barron County, UW-Marshfield/Wood County and UW-Marathon County.

Pearson also said that Eau Claire has developed transfer guides, which is different from the Transfer Plan, because they are basically printouts that students can have for a particular degree at Eau Claire. If a student is starting as a freshman at another school, she said, they can see all the requirements at Eau Claire and see if the courses they take will transfer.

“I always encourage students to be an advocate,” she said, “to talk to their department and find out if they can substitute a course, if there is anything they can do to maybe have a course count, even if it’s not a direct equivalent.”

Senior Joel Bodilly, who after his freshmen year at Eau Claire decided to transfer to Madison, said that transferring was easy and he didn’t encounter any major problems.

“Not all the classes counted for something relevant at first,” he said. “But once I got into my major I was able to work with UW-Madison into having classes count for fulfilling requirements.”

Chamberlain said that aside from issues the university has, such as parking, he said he thinks he made a good decision transferring and that he is looking forward to graduating next fall and starting his career.