Students rely on the California community college they attend for assistance in realizing their plans and goals to transfer and continue their education. More emphasis has recently been placed on the transfer of students through legislation such as AB 705 (Irwin, 2017) and AB 928 (Berman, 2021), and therefore one of the current foci of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) is transfer in the higher education systems. Thus, with transfer being such an important topic, local academic senates must work with their governing boards to put into place the most effective policies and practices that will better help students to successfully navigate transfer into higher education institutions of their choice.
In the Fall of 2017, the delegates to the ASCCC Plenary Session voted to adopt Resolution 14.01, Effective Practices for Allowing Students to Repeat Courses to Alleviate Substandard Grades. This resolution indicated that colleges can create barriers to successful transfer when student transcripts are not transparent in showing that a substandard grade has been repeated. Additionally, the resolution pointed out that some policies can be too restrictive in allowing the repetition of substandard grades only at the college or district in which the student earned the substandard grade. Therefore, Resolution 14.01 resolved that “the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges investigate and disseminate by Spring 2019 effective practices and policies surrounding the repetition of courses where students earned substandard grades.” 
REVIEW OF TITLE 5 AND POLICY ON COURSE REPETITION
The ASCCC Educational Policies Committee considered the administrative policies of the 73 California community college districts regarding the repetition of courses in which a substandard grade—D, F, or NP/NC—is assigned. For most districts using the Community College League of California’s numeration system for board policies and administrative procedures or regulations, this information would be contained in AP or AR 4225. For most districts, AP or AR 4225 includes language from the California Code of Regulations Title 5 §55042, which speaks to policies and procedures related to course repetition to alleviate substandard academic work. This section of Title 5 allows colleges and districts to “permit repetition of any course which was taken in an accredited college or university and for which substandard academic work is recorded.” Further, the same Title 5 section directs that colleges and districts shall, “in determining transfer of a student’s credits, honor similar, prior course repetition actions by other accredited colleges and universities.” Most California community colleges’ AP or AR 4225 contain some variation of the following language:
- A student may repeat a non repeatable course in which they earned a substandard grade (D, F, NP/NC) at the student’s college or any other accredited college or university; and
- In determining transfer of a student’s credits, the student’s college will honor similar, prior course repetition actions by other accredited colleges and universities
This language is an important first step in providing effective practices that support the transfer of students who may have to repeat a substandard grade and who may need to clear barriers such as those mentioned in the resolution.
WHAT IMPLEMENTATION OF POLICY LOOKS LIKE
The interpretation of Title 5 §55042 varies from district to district in written policy. To complicate matters further, what actually takes place in practice also varies from district to district. Input gathered from members of the California community colleges transfer counselor listserve helps to demonstrate more fully the range of the practitioners’ experience with policy implementation. Nine transfer counseling faculty from the listserv provided their insight after being presented with the context of the resolution, along with Title 5 language around course repetition. The following scenario and questions were posed:
A student has taken a course at X college and received a substandard grade. The student then takes the same or equivalent course at Y college and receives a passing grade.
If you are College X,
- Do you annotate the student transcript to indicate that the course was repeated elsewhere?
- Is it automatic or does a student need to initiate? What is the process?
If you are Y College,
- Do you annotate the student transcript to indicate the course is a repetition of a course taken elsewhere?
- Is it automatic or does a student need to initiate? What is the process?
Most respondents shared that if they were College X and the student repeated the equivalent course at College Y, then an appropriate annotation would be placed on the student transcript at their college. However, most colleges will only take this action after the student initiates a grade adjustment process in the Admissions and Records Office. Santa Monica College provides an example of this situation. Santa Monica College’s AR 4225 section 4.c states the following:
4. Student Permanent Academic Record and Grade Point Average (GPA) c. In cases where a student has received a substandard grade in a course at SMC and repeated the equivalent course at another accredited college or university with a passing grade, the student may petition to have the SMC course annotated as a repeat on their transcript. The student must request that an official transcript be sent directly to Admissions and Records from the institution where the course was repeated successfully with a passing grade and is responsible for verifying that it is on file with Admissions and Records. The student must then submit a petition.
For instance, the transcript annotation under the course may indicate, “repeated at another college” or, more specifically, “Repeated at Y College.”
Only one of the nine respondents indicated they annotate student transcripts in the case where they are College Y. In this scenario, the student has taken a course at College X with a substandard grade and subsequently completes the equivalent course at College Y. The responses indicate that such annotation not be a common practice. The particular college that did take such action codes a course repetition on the transcript with an “E” to indicate the following message: “Repeated indicates that the course was completed at another institution.”
Most of the counselor respondents shared that they refer students back to the college where the student received the substandard grade to request a grade adjustment, annotation, or academic renewal. While this practice is valid, each district’s academic renewal policies may vary widely and further complicate the situation for the student.
In the end, a student who has multiple transcripts with substandard grades and repeated courses is left with navigating each college’s policy and process on course repetition. The ideal situation would be that each community college would annotate its transcripts similarly to indicate the course repetition and grading implication. Then, when the student presents both transcripts, similarly annotated, it would be clear to a transfer institution that the courses were deemed equivalent.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR POLICY A ND PRACTICE
Based on all of these factors, the following recommendations may be considered for policy and practice by local academic senates:
- Review Title 5 §55042 and your college’s AP or AR 4225, or whatever similar policy on course repetition exists locally, to ensure that the language is aligned and explicit about the situations in which transcripts are annotated. Regarding the example scenario presented to the transfer counselor listserv, review and discuss the situation where your college is College Y and examine how the repetition could be annotated to benefit student transfer.
- Involve transfer-focused counseling faculty, directors, evaluators, and admissions and records staff in discussions around AP or AR 4225, or whatever similar policy on course repetition exists locally, to understand the reality of implementation and local context for transfer. These practitioners have a better understanding of what transfer institution policies are impacting your local college students.
- Engage in conversation with student government to bring greater awareness to students about these issues in order to better support students in the transfer process.
1. The full text of Resolution 14.01 F17 is available at https://www.asccc.org/resolutions/effective-practices-allowing-students….