Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

01/31/2019 09:00 AM EDUCATION

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09:00:12 AM Start
09:00:22 AM SB31
09:50:49 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
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Heard & Held
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**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
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                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE EDUCATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                        January 31, 2019                                                                                        
                           9:00 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Gary Stevens, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Shelley Hughes, Vice Chair                                                                                              
Senator Chris Birch                                                                                                             
Senator Mia Costello                                                                                                            
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Tom Begich                                                                                                              
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 31                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to the transferability of academic credit for                                                                  
specified courses among postsecondary education programs; and                                                                   
relating to the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska."                                                                  
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB  31                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: UNIVERSITY CURRICULA; TRANSFER CREDITS                                                                             
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) STEVENS                                                                                                  
01/23/19       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/23/19       (S)       EDC, FIN                                                                                               
01/31/19       (S)       EDC AT 9:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
TIM LAMKIN, Staff                                                                                                               
Senator Gary Stevens                                                                                                            
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented SB 31 on behalf of the sponsor.                                                                 
PAUL LAYER, Ph.D., Vice President                                                                                               
Academics, Students and Research                                                                                                
University of Alaska Fairbanks                                                                                                  
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 31.                                                                                       
KEITH HAMILTON, Ph.D., representing self                                                                                        
Soldotna, Alaska                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 31.                                                                                          
MIKE COONS, representing self                                                                                                   
Palmer, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT: Opposed  SB 31  because it  does not  go far                                                             
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
9:00:12 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  GARY   STEVENS  called   the  Senate   Education  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 9:00  a.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order were Senators Costello, Birch, Hughes, and Chair Stevens.                                                                 
         SB  31-UNIVERSITY CURRICULA; TRANSFER CREDITS                                                                      
9:00:22 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  announced consideration of SB  31. Senator Stevens                                                               
said his intent  is to introduce and hear testimony  on SB 31 and                                                               
hold the bill in committee.                                                                                                     
9:00:41 AM                                                                                                                    
TIM   LAMKIN,  Staff,   Senator   Gary   Stevens,  Alaska   State                                                               
Legislature,  Juneau, Alaska,  said that  SB 31  is an  effort to                                                               
improve the transparency  of the transfer process  of credits for                                                               
students  transferring  between  schools  in  the  University  of                                                               
Alaska (UA)  system.  Historically,  across the  nation, students                                                               
have  lost nearly  half their  college credits  when transferring                                                               
from one school  to another. They deplete their  financial aid by                                                               
having to repeat courses. Often,  to save money, students tend to                                                               
go  to  a   lower-cost  community  college  before   going  to  a                                                               
university  to  complete  a bachelor's  degree.  They  are  often                                                               
frustrated to learn  that the base courses they  have taken don't                                                               
transfer and  must be  repeated. That means  more time  and money                                                               
before they can graduate.                                                                                                       
MR. LAMKIN said that data  for 2004-2009 from the U.S. Department                                                               
of Education  confirms this.  This bill is  an effort  to improve                                                               
that. He said he did want  to acknowledge the efforts made by the                                                               
UA Board of Regents. The board  has a policy that addresses this,                                                               
but there  is no statute. They  have made strides to  improve the                                                               
alignment of  curriculum across the campuses  and transferability                                                               
of credits, but  the question before the committee  is whether it                                                               
is enough.                                                                                                                      
MR. LAMKIN  said the question for  the UA system for  decades has                                                               
been,  "Are  we one  or  are  we  three."  The Board  of  Regents                                                               
wrangles  with  this question  and  the  transfer of  credit.  He                                                               
pointed  out  that  the  bill  packets contain  a  study  by  the                                                               
Education Commission  of the  States (ECS)  that has  a breakdown                                                               
state-by-state   regarding    four   questions    regarding   the                                                               
transferablity of core, lower division  courses. These include do                                                               
they   have  common,   statewide  course   numbering,  guaranteed                                                               
transfer of an associate degree, and statewide reverse transfer.                                                                
MR. LAMKIN said he looked  specifically at the transferability of                                                               
the core,  lower division courses.  There is a board  policy that                                                               
indicates  that  a  student who  completes  a  general  education                                                               
requirement  (GER) at  one campus  can transfer  that to  another                                                               
MR. LAMKIN said that common  course numbering and transferability                                                               
of associate degrees is encouraged, but not guaranteed.                                                                         
9:05:16 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   COSTELLO    said   that   it   was    surprising   that                                                               
transferability  of  credit requires  a  bill.  She referenced  a                                                               
comprehensive  study looking  at  all  challenges the  university                                                               
faces. She  said she  would like  a report on  the status  of all                                                               
those issues.  Transferability was one of  the major frustrations                                                               
for students and was highlighted in the [James] Fisher report.                                                                  
CHAIR  STEVENS noted  that  Mr.  Lamkin served  on  the Board  of                                                               
Regents while  a student  at the  University of  Alaska Fairbanks                                                               
MR.  LAMKIN said  he has  the official  report on  file. He  also                                                               
noted that he was the Vice  President of the Board of Regents and                                                               
the first student  regent elevated to the executive  level of the                                                               
9:06:34 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES said  in the EDC report  about the transferability                                                               
of  credits,  some  states  were  shown  as  yeses  to  all  four                                                               
questions. Alaska was shown as a yes  to one and no to three. The                                                               
yes question  was for board  policy regarding  transferability of                                                               
credit. She asked  if the legislation was needed  if the transfer                                                               
of GERs in the system already was board policy.                                                                                 
MR. LAMKIN  said the question is  if the policy that  is in place                                                               
is enough.   Half the states have statutes to  reinforce that and                                                               
half do not. The online versions  of each campus's GERs appear to                                                               
align,  but  part of  bill  is  to ensure  that  it  is easy  and                                                               
transparent for students to understand.                                                                                         
9:08:39 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH   cited  an   instance  of   someone  encountering                                                               
differences between journalism  programs at UAA and  UAF. He said                                                               
he looks  forward to hearing  from the university  about progress                                                               
to alleviate this situation, absent  legislation. He asked if the                                                               
loss  of accreditation  for  the UAA  School  of Education  would                                                               
affect the transferability of those credits.                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS said  progress has been made. When he  was with the                                                               
university  20 years  ago, students  were upset  about having  to                                                               
repeat classes.  He understands that campuses  can have different                                                               
course requirements, but it is  appropriate to ask the university                                                               
about this  issue. He  said he  hopes to  hear from  students and                                                               
faculty about whether they feel this legislation is needed.                                                                     
9:11:11 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  LAMKIN presented  the sectional  for  SB 31,  version M.  He                                                               
noted that  the language was  drafted from an Oregon  law adopted                                                               
in 2017:                                                                                                                        
Sec. 1:  Adds a new  section to the  duties of the  University of                                                               
Alaska (UA) to include: AS 14.40.185                                                                                            
     (A) The Board of Regents (BOR) shall establish foundational                                                                
         curriculum for each major degree  program, identifying a                                                               
         list of required first-year, lower division courses that                                                               
         will be fully transferable between each campus of the UA                                                               
         system. In establishing the foundational curriculum, the                                                               
         BOR shall:                                                                                                             
               1. Consult with Directors from each campus of the                                                                
                   UA system;                                                                                                   
               2. Evaluate current lower division courses                                                                       
                   offered at each campus for transferability                                                                   
                   between campuses;                                                                                            
               3. Identify major areas of study based on                                                                        
                   workforce demand and academic need;                                                                          
               4. Publicly disclose the criteria used to                                                                        
                   establish the foundational curricula and major                                                               
                   areas of study;                                                                                              
               5. Distribute the foundational curriculum for                                                                    
                   each major area of study to each campus of the                                                               
                   University of Alaska for replication;                                                                        
               6. Determine and describe the courses, completion                                                                
                   standards, and the optimal  number of academic                                                               
                   credits for the foundational curriculum for an                                                               
                   academic degree program in each  major area of                                                               
               7. Update the foundational curricula and major                                                                   
                   areas of study as necessary;                                                                                 
               8. Provide information and technical assistance                                                                  
                   to   each  campus   about   implementing   the                                                               
                   foundational curricula and the transferability                                                               
                   of credits; and                                                                                              
               9. Evaluate the effect of the foundational                                                                       
                   curricula on transferability  of course credit                                                               
                   and report annually to the  legislature on the                                                               
                   implementation and success of the foundational                                                               
                   curricula and credit  transfer activity within                                                               
                   the UA system.                                                                                               
     (B) Specifies the BOR shall make foundational curricula                                                                    
         course credit fully transferable for UA students within                                                                
         the UA system.                                                                                                         
     (C) All students of UA shall be provided with information                                                                  
         about foundational curriculum and respective course                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS  pointed  out  that   the  bill  applies  only  to                                                               
foundational curriculum, not every class.                                                                                       
SENATOR  HUGHES recalled  her struggle  to transfer  credits more                                                               
than 30 years  ago when she transferred from  a community college                                                               
to the university.  She said she too wants to  hear from students                                                               
because she has been aware of  requests year after year since she                                                               
has been  in the legislature  for the  university to step  up and                                                               
make improvements.                                                                                                              
SENATOR  HUGHES asked  about one  year  instead of  two since  it                                                               
usually takes  two years  to complete GERs  to earn  a bachelor's                                                               
degree. She  asked why it would  be for each academic  program as                                                               
that  implied there  was  different  foundational curriculum  for                                                               
each area  of study.  She asked  if there could  be two  years of                                                               
GERs  for  any  bachelor's  degree  program  so  that  undeclared                                                               
students would not be wasting their time.                                                                                       
MR.  LAMKIN replied  that  page  two, lines  30-31,  of the  bill                                                               
refers to  students who have not  yet identified a major  area of                                                               
study.  GERs are  one  and  two hundred  level  courses that  are                                                               
usually  for  every student.  He  will  let academicians  address                                                               
SENATOR HUGHES said  she was confused about why there  would be a                                                               
need for curriculum for each  academic program. She asked whether                                                               
it could be two years instead of one.                                                                                           
9:20:12 AM                                                                                                                    
PAUL  LAYER,  Ph.D.,  Vice  President,  Academics,  Students  and                                                               
Research,  University  of  Alaska Fairbanks,  Fairbanks,  Alaska,                                                               
said the university  has done a lot  regarding the transferablity                                                               
of  credits for  foundational  courses or  GERs.  As required  by                                                               
regents' policy  and regulation,  the university has  taken steps                                                               
to ensure  transferability of credits  across the system.  As far                                                               
as the question  about whether UA is one university  or three, it                                                               
is one with regard to  general education requirements. UA has one                                                               
set, 34  credits, of general  education or  foundational courses.                                                               
It is  a multiyear experience  in the  areas of oral  and written                                                               
communications,  math literacy,  science literacy,  and arts  and                                                               
DR.  LAYER said  the  system  has provisions  that  if a  student                                                               
completes all  or part of the  GERs at any campus,  those credits                                                               
will transfer across the system.  He highlighted that the faculty                                                               
did a lot  of work, based upon the results  of the Fisher report,                                                               
to align  course numbers  across the  system. That  is relatively                                                               
new  this year.  For  example, Writing  111 is  the  same at  all                                                               
campuses. UA  does meet those  four criteria across  the systems.                                                               
He  thanked  the Senate  for  the  opportunity to  highlight  the                                                               
changes  and  improvements  UA has  made  in  transferability  of                                                               
SENATOR  HUGHES said  it  seems that  the  university is  already                                                               
implementing the policy in the bill.  She asked if they are still                                                               
receiving complaints from students about credit transferability.                                                                
DR. LAYER  said UAF  always has students  who have  difficulty in                                                               
transferring  credits. For  example,  a student  in an  associate                                                               
program at a community campus may  choose to take a geology class                                                               
that meets  the requirement  for an associate  degree, but  for a                                                               
later  major should  have taken  chemistry. That  is an  advising                                                               
issue. Some  of those barrier  have been  removed but it  has not                                                               
eliminated all student concerns.                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES said  that with  the science  course example  she                                                               
could see  that perhaps only one  year of courses could  apply to                                                               
all degrees.                                                                                                                    
DR. LAYER  said that  for undecided students,  there are  a basic                                                               
set  of  courses  to  meet requirements  for  almost  any  major:                                                               
writing, communications,  and quantitative skills.  An undeclared                                                               
student could have two years of curriculum in any university.                                                                   
SENATOR BIRCH  said in  the past printed  catalogs specific  to a                                                               
year  described  degree requirements.  He  asked  how that  works                                                               
across the university system today.                                                                                             
DR.  LAYER  answered  that  there   are  no  longer  any  printed                                                               
catalogs, but catalogs  are still tied to the  year. Students can                                                               
graduate under the  catalog of the year they entered  or the year                                                               
they graduate  so that there  are no moving goal  posts. Catalogs                                                               
do have  details about GERs  and a  matrix of courses  across the                                                               
system that are available to meet those GERs.                                                                                   
9:29:17 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BIRCH  said his  district, and Alaska  in general,  has a                                                               
large  military   contingent.  Many  of  them   are  younger  and                                                               
interested in  advancing careers through continuous  education or                                                               
degree programs.  The transferablity  issue has surfaced  in some                                                               
of  those  discussions.  He  asked  Dr. Layer  to  speak  to  the                                                               
accreditation  issue  in  Anchorage   and  how  it  would  affect                                                               
students who want to transfer credits.                                                                                          
DR.  LAYER responded  that [University  of  Alaska President]  Dr                                                               
Johnsen  will  be  testifying  next  week  about  the  School  of                                                               
Education accreditation issue. All  three of the universities are                                                               
accredited   by  the   Northwest  Commission   on  Colleges   and                                                               
Universities (NWCCU).  That means  the courses are  accredited by                                                               
NWCCU.  UAA  just successfully  completed  its  review with  that                                                               
group.   The  Council   for   the   Accreditation  of   Education                                                               
Preparation  (CAEP) focused  on programmatic  issues rather  than                                                               
courses or  curriculum issues. Some  UAA education  students have                                                               
transferred to UAF or UAS (University of Alaska Southeast).                                                                     
DR. Layer  said that most  difficulty with credit  transfer comes                                                               
at the upper division level.  Different majors may have different                                                               
emphases at different campuses.                                                                                                 
DR. LAYER said  that as far as the military  goes, there are many                                                               
transfer  arrangements  with  outside   universities  to  UA  and                                                               
mobility within the  university. Many courses are  online now and                                                               
the objective is that students  can take those courses across the                                                               
system and  have them count  toward their degrees. This  has been                                                               
implemented especially for foundational or core courses.                                                                        
CHAIR STEVENS said it is good  to hear that students can transfer                                                               
a year of foundational courses within the UA system.                                                                            
9:33:50 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES  commented that other  states handle  this through                                                               
agreements, not  statutory mandate.  She asked  if work  has been                                                               
done so that not just credits  but also associate degrees will be                                                               
accepted  between campuses.  She offered  her understanding  that                                                               
although  it  is the  UA  system,  the accreditation  process  is                                                               
separate for the campuses.                                                                                                      
DR.  LAYER  answered that  it  is  board  policy to  transfer  an                                                               
associate degree  and the foundational GERs  between campuses. He                                                               
said he  would like to  work with the  committee to show  how the                                                               
university has made  improvements in these areas. He  said UA has                                                               
three separately accredited universities,  but through policy and                                                               
regulation,  has established  one foundational  set of  GERs. The                                                               
community campuses are  part of UAA, UAF, or UAS.  For example, a                                                               
student at Kenai  is a UAA student. This is  a bit different from                                                               
most states where the community college is a separate system.                                                                   
SENATOR HUGHES commented that the  June 2018 Education Commission                                                               
of  the  States  report  shows  Alaska  as  a  no  for  statewide                                                               
guarantee of  transferability of associate degrees.  She asked if                                                               
that chart is incorrect.                                                                                                        
DR.  LAYER  answered that  he  would  need  to  look at  the  ECS                                                               
definition of  "guarantee" because the commission's  policies are                                                               
explicit regarding  transferability. He  pointed out  that Alaska                                                               
is  also a  no for  reverse  transfer on  the ECS  report but  it                                                               
doesn't  apply because  there is  no  separate community  college                                                               
system  in  Alaska.  Reverse  transfer   means  that  if  someone                                                               
completes most of an associate  degree at a community college and                                                               
then  finishes courses  at a  university, that  community college                                                               
would award an associate degree.                                                                                                
DR. LAYER  added that the  faculty completed the work  on general                                                               
education courses and  curriculum alignment in May  of last year,                                                               
after the ECS report was compiled.                                                                                              
CHAIR STEVENS  opened public testimony.  He noted that  Dr. Keith                                                               
Hamilton is a  member of the Alaska State Board  of Education and                                                               
Early Development and president of Alaska Christian College.                                                                    
9:41:00 AM                                                                                                                    
KEITH HAMILTON, Ph.D., representing  self, Soldotna, Alaska, said                                                               
he is grateful  to see SB 31  but it might not go  far enough. He                                                               
said that  since the transfer  of 100  and 200 level  courses and                                                               
associate degrees in the UA system  have had hiccups, he was glad                                                               
to hear the prior testimony. In  the past two years, ACPE and the                                                               
State  Board have  sent two  separate resolutions  calling for  a                                                               
streamlining of credit  transfer from colleges that  are not part                                                               
of the  UA system. Dr.  Hamilton said he  is aware of  no changes                                                               
following those resolutions.                                                                                                    
DR. HAMILTON  said as  a college  president, he  is aware  of the                                                               
difficulty of  transferring credits into  the UA system  when not                                                               
part of  the system. He has  spoken with the president  of Alaska                                                               
Pacific   University  about   APU's   difficulties  with   credit                                                               
transfer. A leader at AVTEC spoke  with him about two great AVTEC                                                               
programs that  UAF will accept  for full transfer, but  UAA would                                                               
not rearticulate an  agreement when it expired. For  years he has                                                               
attempted to  get articulated agreements or  a streamlined credit                                                               
transfer process  with UA. It would  be a triple win  for Alaska,                                                               
for  students,  and  the  university   to  have  seamless  credit                                                               
transfer  articulation among  all accredited  colleges throughout                                                               
the state.                                                                                                                      
CHAIR STEVENS said that is an issue beyond SB 31.                                                                               
SENATOR HUGHES highlighted that  Idaho requires that credits from                                                               
a  regionally  accredited institution  must  be  accepted by  the                                                               
public university system.                                                                                                       
CHAIR  STEVENS   responded  that  is  something   that  could  be                                                               
SENATOR HUGHES  said it seems  that the university would  want to                                                               
help students  with two-year degrees  from outside the  UA system                                                               
obtain bachelor's degrees.                                                                                                      
9:46:36 AM                                                                                                                    
MIKE COONS,  representing self, Palmer,  Alaska, said  he opposed                                                               
SB 31 because it  does not go far enough. He  related that he has                                                               
an AA in emergency medicine and  he found many GER courses were a                                                               
waste  of time  because they  did not  relate to  his profession.                                                               
Noting that  SB 31  does not  address credits  outside of  UA, he                                                               
asked what  happens to a person  with more than a  year of credit                                                               
who is transferred  from Eielson [Air Force Base]  to JBER [Joint                                                               
Base Elmendorf-Richardson]. He also  asked if the average student                                                               
knows  how to  check  on  what is  transferable  prior to  taking                                                               
courses  and whether  UAA  will assure  that  counselors will  be                                                               
knowledgeable about transferability.                                                                                            
CHAIR STEVENS said  his hometown has about 2,500  Coast Guard men                                                               
and women, some of whom work  on degrees while they get stationed                                                               
at various  places. He described transferability  as an important                                                               
9:49:58 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS closed  public testimony  and noted  there was  an                                                               
indeterminate fiscal note. He held SB 31 in committee.                                                                          
9:50:49 AM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair Stevens  adjourned the Senate Education  Standing Committee                                                               
at 9:50 a.m.                                                                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB031_UnivAKCreditTransfer_BillText_VersionM.pdf SEDC 1/31/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 31
SB031_UnivAKCreditTransfer_SponsorStatement.pdf SEDC 1/31/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 31
SB031_UnivAKCreditTransfer_Sectional_VersionM.pdf SEDC 1/31/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 31
SB031_UnivAKCreditTransfers_FiscalNote01_UnivAK_28Jan2019.pdf SEDC 1/31/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 31
SB031_UnivAKCreditTransfer_Research_ECS_June2018.pdf SEDC 1/31/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 31
SB031_UnivAKCreditTransfer_Research_WaPost_Sept2017.pdf SEDC 1/31/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 31
SB031_UnivAKCreditTransfer_Research_USNews_Nov2016.pdf SEDC 1/31/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 31
SB031_UnivAKCreditTransfer_Research_InsideHigherED_June2015.pdf SEDC 1/31/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 31
SB031_UnivAKCreditTransfer_Research_NewAmerica_April2015.pdf SEDC 1/31/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 31