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Hacking a Credential

How many different sources of college credit are on your final undergrad transcript?

Photo of Lisa Baird
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I grew up in the Dallas 'burbs. I got accepted into UT Austin, and that summer after high school, I took two freshman courses at my local community college just to get a leg up. I also eeked out a couple of AP course credits from high school. Once I finally got to UT, I CLEP'ed out of a couple more things and took one of my required courses at Austin Community College.  So I think my undergrad transcript was ultimately hacked together with five sources of college credit—two community colleges, two credit-by-exam programs, and one university. It all happened via word-of-mouth. I would hear that you could get credit for this or that, or that you could transfer in credits from this community college for that class, and voilà—hacked undergrad. But I grew up in the Dallas 'burbs; I had a well-resourced high school, two engaged parents, and a bunch of college-bound peers. I had a highly-functioning word-of-mouth system that I didn't even have to seek out. But what happens to people who don't? What's their word-of-mouth

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  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

It's been a circuitous route through banking and higher-ed, but I wound up a designer at IDEO!

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Even traditional baccalaureate/residential students want to hack together a degree. My insight is sometimes it's not that the system only fails the "New Normal Student"... it's just that they have the fewest pistols on their belt to respond to the offense.


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Photo of Jawad Ali

Hey Lisa,

Good point about how the credit transfer system can be confusing and opaque. I grew up in the Houston suburbs and transferred credits to Texas A&M, other students I knew did 2 years in community college and transferred in...getting the same degrees with less cost and less time! At some level there needs to be an incentive for the University to make transferring credits (which may lower their own course enrollment, tuition, etc) easier.

Your question leads to more important is equivalency? is it similar enough to test out of a course as having the experience of taking it with classmates/professors? what are the consequences of taking away the prestige of a degree from a known institution and replacing it with a generic badge system? Our MedTech Innovation Course is something that we are interested in getting some kind of certificate for!

Perhaps the most practical next step is good counseling across the board for high school students...maybe with an open web-based platform. I know many that didn't really know what the SAT was used for or what AP classes were.

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