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La Roche College to accept up to 90 credits from community college students

Tiny La Roche College in McCandless carved out a niche in the increasingly competitive student recruitment game Tuesday when officials announced the school will accept as many as 90 transfer credits from community colleges.

That’s about three quarters of the credits necessary for most bachelor’s degrees.

It might be more community college transfer credits than any other college in the country accepts, according to some experts.

Given that community college credits cost about a quarter of the cost of credits at the lowest-priced public colleges, it’s a move that’s attracting attention.

“The truth is, there are a lot of these (transfer) agreements, but I have never heard of one that accepts 90 credits,” said Don Francis, executive director of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. The group represents 89 private nonprofit colleges scattered across Pennsylvania.

Francis said he has been pushing such issues, with his board and with member schools.

“I think what La Roche is doing is great because that gets attention,” he said, adding that community college transfer students represent an important market for four-year schools, especially in Pennsylvania, where the pool of new high school graduates is declining and competition for students is intense.

Like Francis, Westmoreland County Community College freshman communications major Candace Howell, 19, of Delmont would love to hear about more colleges adopting such programs. She plans to earn a bachelor’s degree but is concerned about the cost.

“I would definitely consider that. With the way the economy is now and the recession in the background, mainly it’s all about saving money and getting a good education,” Howell said.

In addition to increasing its cap for community college credit transfers, La Roche, where tuition is $12,375 a semester, is offering transfer scholarships of as much as $14,000 a year and will charge community college transfers one semester of tuition at a rate of $99 per credit — about the same charge assessed by many community colleges.

The small Catholic college is looking at a huge pool of potential students.

Danielle Gross, director of public affairs for the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, said more than 122,000 of the 366,200 students attending community colleges in the state in 2012-13 said they were preparing to transfer to four-year degree schools.

At La Roche, with an enrollment of 1,400, officials said the need to step up recruitment, while maintaining academics, was a factor in the faculty senate’s decision to approve the new transfer guidelines that take effect in January.

“The competition has gotten more and more difficult. These changes will result in a cost savings for students and allow them to graduate and enter the workforce sooner,” said Hope Schiffgens, director of graduate studies and adult education at La Roche.

“This is a perfect example of why the timing is right for this type of conversation at colleges,” Francis said.

Schiffgens said La Roche, which previously accepted up to 66 transfer credits from community colleges, decided to act when community college students said they were transferring elsewhere because individual programs at La Roche would only accept 40 or 50 transfer credits.

She conceded La Roche’s new cap won’t work for every major. But she said there are a number of degree programs, such as psychology and radiography, that may present options for students with 90 transfer credits.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or [email protected]


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