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Faculty votes on new dual credit policy

November 16, 2012

On Tuesday, Nov. 13, the Monmouth College faculty and representatives met for their monthly faculty meeting. The topic at the center of the discussion was the way dual-credits are transferred into the Monmouth College academic system. This discussion was only for credits brought by incoming  freshmen from high school, not transfer students coming from other colleges or community colleges.

As of press time, the motion had not yet officially been drafted and put into writing, but the basics are as follows: Under the new dual-credit policy, incoming freshmen will have all dual credits counted, as long as they show up on a college transcript, are at a C or better and meet the articulation requirements made by the school. Under the old policy, students had to exceed the admission standards of the college, and have taken dual-credit course in addition to those standards.

While faculty seemed to agree almost unanimously on aligning dual-credit standards with competing surrounding colleges (such as the University of Illinios and Knox College), most of the debate, which lasted well into the night and dominated most of the nearly three hour meeting, centered around the ability for students to opt out of English 110, the argumentative writing course that the majority of freshmen students are required to take. At least 75 percent of applications for dual-credit are for English 110 equivalency.

Mark Willhardt, associate professor of English and department chair, motioned for an amendment to the new policy that would require students to have an English (not composite) ACT score of 26, a score of eight on the writing portion and a writing sample whose subject would be determined by the faculty.

The score of eight on the writing portion of the ACT and the writing sample were quickly voted down, but the ACT score of 26 remained a source of contention throughout the night, and was eventually also voted down by the faculty.

Tim Keefauver, the Vice President for Strategic Planning, was wary of the amendment.

“Noting that this is a decision of the faculty and not enrollment management,” said Keefauver, “we did recommend to the faculty that Monmouth come into alignment with other colleges. In a survey of those schools, none of them had this extra restriction. Only about 15 percent of all students who take the ACT have the score of 26 or better.”

However, Willhardt expressed disappointment at the amendment’s failure to pass.

“The fundamental problem is that the new dual credit policy is going to have lasting repercussions well beyond the humanities,” said Willhardt, “into any course where writing is central. We’re going to have a bunch of students who have not been introduced to the vocabulary, and the ways of talking about argumentation…so that we lose a common thread of discussion that we had.”

Driving conversation around the ACT score was the desire to bring “quality” students to Monmouth College. Associate Professor of English Rob Hale believes that this means having a high English ACT score standard.

“If the argument is that we’re trying to get quality students, then quality students are probably going to have a 26 on the English ACT anyway,” said Hale.
“[Rather], we were pretending to make decisions based on educational reasons, that by removing the barrier we were going to get more top students. My view, and other people think, if we’re really trying to get top students, and top students are getting those ACT scores, and we have that measure in there, we’re going to get those students. It feels like we just removed that barrier to get more students. That’s going to be the ultimate effect.”

Indeed, most of the discussion driving the removal of the ACT score was the opportunity to draw more students in, which would then help with financial issues, such as the college’s large debt.

However, not all opponents of the measure were driven by financial reasons. Judy Peterson, Associate Professor of Accounting and department chair, also cited current transfer standards.

“I also believe in fairness,” Peterson said. “Transfer students who take an English 101 and 102 at a community college may transfer those courses in and receive credit for ENGL110.  Those courses may very well be taught in the same way using the same instructors.  This is not a perfect world.  In a perfect world, all our students would be required to take English 110.  The professors in that department do an excellent job of preparing our students for success in their other courses.  However, in order for the college to move forward and succeed we must be competitive. “

Still, concern that the dropping of the ACT score of 26 points to a lowering of academic standards persists. If students are not set up with the proper abilities and resources as freshmen to succeed in the curriculum, how many of those supposedly “quality” students will struggle through? Will This new policy actually bring more high quality students in, because they have less hurdles to jump? Or has Monmouth College placed quantity and the bottom line over quality? There were a lot of “might”s and “maybe”s in the discussion. Only time will tell.

Sarah Zaubi

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