Courses taken at WCU and courses transferred from institutions that WCU has a transfer agreement with are said to be equal. But apparently, in classic Orwellian fashion, courses taken at WCU are more equal. Most transfer students probably already know what I’m talking about. The last straw for me came after not getting one of the William Pyle Phillips scholarships for a year of full tuition for my senior year. It actually wasn’t the fact that I wasn’t ultimately awarded one of the scholarships that irked me, it was never even having the slightest chance of being awarded one that really bothered me.
The rejection letter was obviously a stock letter sent out to every applicant that didn’t get a scholarship. It says “the university was fortunate to have a large number of applicants whose qualifications, like yours, made the selection process a difficult one.” Oh really? They only look at GPA and number of credits, and I have a 4.0 GPA with 91 credits completed. I know there is grade inflation these days but am I really to believe that there were a “large number” of applicants with perfect GPAs?
When I got my rejection letter I asked the Financial Aid office how they chose the recipients. They said that the scholarships are awarded based on GPA and number of credits earned at WCU. So, given my GPA, why didn’t I ever stand a chance?
You see, it didn’t matter that I have a 4.0 GPA for 91 credits because I only have 30 of those credits at WCU. The other 61 credits are from what WCU claims it considers to be equivalent courses that I completed during my time at Delaware County Community College. But how equivalent can they really be when WCU utterly refuses to even consider their existence for scholarship purposes as well as other purposes?
This is not the first time that I came across this blatantly discriminatory policy, nor will it be the last. From the moment I started at WCU, the guarantee that certain courses I transferred would be considered equivalent to their WCU counterparts was violated by the failure of grades to transfer. Straight As turned into straight Ts (which stand for “transfer”) and a 4.0 GPA (from DCCC) became a 0.0 GPA.
This has caused several problems. In the fall, I applied for a summer internship at the Heritage Foundation, and the electronic application asked for the university I attended and my GPA. The only truthful response was to put a 0.0 for GPA and West Chester University as the institution. Fortunately I was able to contact them and explain the dilemma and I was privileged enough to be one of the 65 applicants accepted for the prestigious internship. The grades, the internship, and the scholarship are just a few examples of the problems that the University’s polices result in.
Now let’s fast forward to the day of graduation. I will not be recognized for graduation honors. From the catalog: “The honors list for commencement is based on the GPA from the next-to-last semester before a student graduates. A transfer student must have 60 credits (earned plus currently attempted) reported at West Chester University prior to that time to be recognized. Those who do not attain honors distinctions until the end of their final semester, or those transfer students with honors distinction who do not complete 60 hours until the end of the final semester, will have recognition of their achievement on their final transcripts, where all honors distinctions are recorded.”
Basically what that is saying is that, if you are a transfer student, you must have 60 credits prior to the next-to last semester to be recognized. So transfer students who completed their first two years at a community college and then transferred to WCU, which is a pretty standard way to go about things, have no way to be recognized for their academic achievements. But it will be noted on my transcript—I’m thrilled. Maybe they could put it right next to my 21 “T” grades.
Overall, it is clear that the constant distinction between transfer students and their non-transfer counterparts would not be at all necessary anywhere in the university literature (it appears many places other than the above cited passage) if the promises of course equivalencies were true. No fair-minded person could possibly be okay with this.
All of this is wrong and disingenuous conduct on the part of the university. To fully see this, one must consider what the word equivalency means, since that is really the heart of my argument. Equivalency, according to dictionary.com is “the state of being equivalent or interchangeable.” According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary equivalent means “corresponding or virtually identical especially in effect or function.”
Therefore, it is a fact that what West Chester University tells its transfer students will be a course equivalency is, in fact, not equivalent to its counterpart at WCU because it doesn’t function as such. Sure, it fulfills requirements and gets listed on the transcript. But, as mentioned earlier, the grade, an integral part of the course, is not on the transcript nor does it go toward your GPA. Nor do they apply toward your honors, scholarships, and so on. Simply put, they are not equal in effect or function. To be blunt, the University is simply lying about transfer credits being equivalent.
I know I am not the only transfer student who has fallen victim to the problems that arise as a result of course “equivalencies” being not-so-equivalent after all. There is no question that the University must make changes so that this problem no longer plagues the thousands of upstanding transfer students that are proud to call WCU their home.
There are basically two options that the University has to address this. They can keep the status quo but just be more honest about what is going on. That is, they could nix the term “course equivalency” and replace it with a term that better represents the reality that transfer courses have an obvious stigma attached to them. The most just and desirable outcome, however, would be to keep calling them “course equivalencies” and change the policies so that the courses in question are indeed equivalent.
I encourage all transfer students to urge the WCU administration to make the necessary changes. I also call on all non-transfer WCU students to stand in solidarity with their transfer brethren and demand that the University fulfill the promise of equality. How the University handles this reflects on all of us. I hope that the University will take the appropriate actions to address these grievances now that they have been articulated.
I have little to gain by a change in these policies at this late hour of my college career, but I hope that future transfer students in my position will no longer be subject to problems that arise when their transfer courses, despite being called course equivalencies, ar
e marginalized and ignored. WCU is a great university that I never miss a chance to praise, but this problem needs to be fixed.
One of the reasons I regret not starting at WCU is for the reason highlighted in this article. The only other reason is that I missed two years at the university I have come to love. Hopefully, future transfer students will only have the latter regret.
Bill Hanrahan is a fourth year student majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at WH750431@wcupa.edu.