UK must reconsider credit hour cutoff for commencement honors


Kernel Opinion SIG

UK’s website outlines the requirements for graduating with high honors: A 3.8 grade point average gets you the envied designation of Summa Cum Laude; maintain a 3.6 and you’ll earn Magna Cum Laude, so forth and so on. You get the point.

These grade requirements are completely fair for these honors (high honors demand high levels of work), but they are inconsistent because they exclude transfer students.

The page on UK’s website that lists the above honors describes them as applying only to students who have no less than 90 credit hours of work at UK. It goes on to explain that if a student has 60 to 89 credit hours, they must maintain a grade point average of 0.2 more than four-year students, which means that an average transfer student must maintain a 4.0 GPA to earn Summa Cum Laude.

Many transfer students coming in from one of the 16 colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) have already attained an associate’s degree— a 60 credit hour requirement. When they arrive at UK, their GPA is erased, and they must start from scratch, maintaining perfect scores to achieve the high honors that their peers will reach much easier.

For every four-year student who walks across the stage during commencement with a 3.8 GPA and earns the honor of Summa Cum Laude, there will likely be a transfer student who will follow her with a 3.9, earning only Magna Cum Laude. This inconsistency not only alienates transfer students as not equal to four-year students, but it also denounces the KCTCS system as subordinate, even though UK claims to take pride in working with these colleges.

It is quite understandable that universities must protect their reputations by requiring sufficient credit hours in-house before awarding honors. After all, without this precaution, students could transfer in with 100 hours, take 20 at UK and receive honors that distinguish them as outstanding UK students. This would be unfair to other UK students. But, although UK must clearly have a cutoff at some point for equal honors designations, they must reconsider where the cutoff currently is. As it is now, they have excluded transfer students and in doing so have insulted and excluded the KCTCS system, from which more than 800 students transfer to UK each year.

UK should immediately raise the hours requirement to award transfer students with 60 credit hours the same honors as four-year students. Through doing this, they will take a much-needed step toward guaranteeing equality for transfer students and recognizing the academic excellence within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

As long as transfer students are alienated in the commencement honors requirements and other events on campus, UK sends a clear message that it neither values nor respects transfer students as equal to four-year students or the academic excellence of its community college neighbors.