Graduation Dilemma

Nathan Zoschke

Transfer students experience graduation mishaps

This semester 1,094 seniors have applied for graduation, compared to the 996 who applied in spring 2010.

However, not all of those students will be graduating, some for obvious reasons, such as failure to complete course and exam requirements for their degree, or because of holds placed on their student accounts.

Associate Registrar Amy Cole said holds may prevent certain students from receiving a diploma, although they do not prevent the awarding of a degree.

But others find their hopes to graduate on time dashed at the last minute for less obvious reasons.

For graduate Mark Tucker, with a degree in philosophy, it meant pushing graduation back an entire year.

Tucker hoped to graduate in fall 2005.

To graduate, he needed 12 foreign language credits. He had already completed 10 credit hours of Japanese I and II at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland Park, Kan.

But according to Tucker, JCCC was the only school in the region to offer Japanese language courses at the time, and the highest level offered was Japanese II.

Tucker said Arts and Sciences (A&S) academic advisors told him the two additional foreign language credits would be waived for that very reason.

“Every semester I would go in and talk to an advisor, and every time they told me the foreign language was fine,” Tucker said.

And it wasn’t just one advisor giving Tucker this information.

“I went in every semester to double check,” Tucker said. “It was at least three or four advisors.”

But in fall 2005, when Tucker expected to graduate, he hit a snag.

To graduate, students must meet with an academic advisor and submit an application to their academic unit, which is forwarded to the Office of Registration and Records. From that point, the student is added to a list their academic unit and Registration and Records use to check completion of degree requirements.

When Tucker went to meet with an academic advisor, he was shocked to learn he did need the extra two foreign language credits.

“They told me that I had to take this class,” Tucker said. “Either I had to start new language or take the classes online somewhere.”

After learning about the appeal process, Tucker appealed his foreign language requirement, but the appeal was denied two months later.

“I spoke with the head of the foreign language department,” Tucker said. “She didn’t have any concern over what an adviser had told me two years before or that it was a graduation issue.”

Because Japanese III was not offered locally, Tucker was forced to apply to the University of Alabama, where he took an online Japanese III course.

But because the class was only offered in the winter, and it was too late for Tucker to apply for the winter semester, he was forced to wait an entire year.

“I was basically stuck in limbo,” Tucker said. “I had a year and a half where school-wise I was done and I just had to take three credit hours. It was a waste of time, and I was stuck. When you’re pretty much done with school and you’re not taking classes, you can’t just put down on a résumé that ‘I have a degree, kind of.’”

Finally, in 2007, after a year and a half of waiting, Tucker received his degree.

“It’s frustrating, because there’s no accountability for UMKC’s staff,” Tucker said. “Advisors are just that, people who give advice, not people who can make decisions. But when they are your only point of contact for graduation requirements and give wrong or incomplete information, there is a giant gap in accountability.”

Tucker isn’t the only transfer student who has had problems come senior year.

Senior Scott Thode, a psychology major who transferred from the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU), was forced to retake several classes at UMKC, which is pushing his graduation back an entire semester.

“I had to take a statistics class again at UMKC,” Thode said. “At Mizzou, the stats class was run through the math department, but it was run through the psychology department at UMKC. It was an identical course.”

Thode also said he had to retake an anthropology class at UMKC and take additional courses to obtain his degree that weren’t required at MU.

“I didn’t really understand the logic behind it,” Thode said. “I would understand if I were transferring to KU or something, but it’s another UM (University of Missouri) school.”

Fortunately, Thode was informed of the course discrepancies and appeal process by academic advisors when he transferred.

Thode successfully appealed several psychology credits that wouldn’t transfer, but was told not to appeal anthropology.

“One [academic advisor] told me that I could appeal, but she said that there’s no point in doing it because they’re pretty strict in terms of what they allow to pass in non-major requirements,” Thode said.

Academic advisors were not available for immediate comment, although a follow-up is planned for next week.

“Students whose application for graduation [have] been denied, they must reapply once they have satisfied their requirements,” Cole said.

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