By Marie Bueno
Some students graduating this December may not receive their diplomas until the spring semester because of a newly enforced transfer credit requirement.
The requirement, added to the 2014-2015 course catalog, requires students to submit transcripts from previously attended institutions by the first day of class of the semester they plan to graduate.
Enrollment Management put the policy in place to identify any students who are taking lower-division courses while enrolled in their last semester at Texas A&M-San Antonio, which only offers junior and senior-level courses.
Fulfillment of prerequisites and core courses are important, campus officials say.
“We don’t want students in a class where it’s more difficult than it should be due to the lack of that basic foundation,” Dr. Eric Cooper, assistant vice president of enrollment management, said.
The policy continues that “failure to submit official transcripts in a timely fashion during the student’s final semester may result in the student’s degree being awarded in a subsequent semester.”
Prior to enforcing the policy, campus administration found that many students reached their last semester and still lacked core classes, which created problems. Core classes provide a basic foundation, preparing students for their junior and senior years.
Without the core classes needed to graduate, some students needed to return to the Alamo Colleges, where they found it difficult to afford their classes because they no longer qualified for financial aid. Other students walked the stage, but because they could not meet the deadline for submitting transcripts, their diplomas did not arrive when expected.
Students do not usually plan on enrolling in lower level courses during their last semester; however, many students finish lower coursework at another college while pursuing a bachelor’s degree at A&M-San Antonio.
So far, Cooper has reviewed about 20 appeals for graduation. Appeal forms require students to explain why they are taking lower-division courses during their last semester of college.
“Students who matriculated prior to Fall 2014 may already be out of sequence and may need to complete lower division courses elsewhere their final semester,” Cooper said.
In other words, if students were admitted to this university before fall term and still need lower-division courses, “those appeals are more likely to be approved.”
Students who began their first semester in Fall 2014 “should make every attempt to complete their courses away from A&M-SA prior to the last semester and will need a strong case for their appeal.” Meaning, because the policy is now in effect, students need to knock out those lower-division courses if they plan on graduating.
This new requirement caused a domino effect for exercise science senior Edward Moreno, whose job hinged on completing his bachelor’s degree.
“After learning about the graduation requirement from another student, I crammed in 17 hours last spring and took classes in the summer that I didn’t plan on taking to graduate this fall,” Moreno said. “The new requirement put me in a panicked state of mind.”
Students can appeal by submitting paperwork to the Office of the Registrar, including an appeal form and a letter explaining the reason behind putting off their lower-level courses.
After the request is reviewed by the board, the student is notified of the approval or denial. An approval requires the student to submit transcripts by noon on Dec. 16. If transcripts are not in before the deadline, the degree will not be conferred in time and the arrival of the diploma will be delayed.
“If your appeal is denied, you may have the opportunity to participate in the commencement ceremony; however, you will have to wait the entire semester to graduate,” Cooper said.
Course availability, or conflicting courses, may interfere with completing lower level classes at first. Reasons for dual enrollment vary from student to student, but the primary reason is more than likely because A&M-San Antonio is a junior/senior university. Therefore, students must finish freshman/sophomore coursework elsewhere, but that could soon change with this university planning to downward expand.
Until this institution becomes a four-year school, campus administration recommends students finish their core classes during the first two years of college, visit with their advisors at least once per semester and take advantage of the tool, DegreeWorks.
Available through the university’s website, the tool helps students easily audit their degrees and help keep track of courses.
“Students work hard having to juggle school, work and children,” Moreno said. “To find out you may be denied graduation is not right.”