Olivia Ellis, a junior public health major, transferred to Westminster College from Salt Lake Community College to play for the women’s basketball team in 2017.
She said she planned to play in the 2017- 2018 season starting in October. Westminster, however, did not accept all of her credits, forcing her to become a redshirt, a college athlete who is withdrawn from college sporting events during one year in order to extend the period of playing eligibility.
In other words, since some of her credits did not transfer, it made Ellis ineligible to play basketball because of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules.
Ellis isn’t the only student to have this experience. Many transfer student athletes said they struggle receiving credit for classes taken at other schools, despite efforts from Westminster to accept transfer credits.
Requirements of Transfer Students
From 2016-2018 — including fall, spring and summer for a total of nine semesters — Westminster had 682 transfer students enroll in classes, although the exact number of transfer student athletes is unknown, according to the admissions office.
Whether transfer credit fulfills specific requirements in a major or minor is determined by an advisor in the program of study, according to Westminster’s website. The website also says that a student who receives elective transfer credit for a course may not necessarily be able to apply that course to the major or minor.
According to Westminster’s 2017-2018 common data set, the lowest grade earned for any course that may be transferred is a C-. The maximum number of credits or courses that may be transferred from a two-year institution is 72 and for a four-year institution 88.
The requirements all transfer students need to apply for admission to Westminster include college transcript(s) and an essay or personal statement, according to the common data set. The college also recommends transfer students include a statement of good standing from prior institutions and attend an interview. Westminster does not require transfer students to provide standardized test scores.
Why Athletes Transfer to Westminster
Many student athletes said they transferred to Westminster because of the academics and the ability to play their sport.
Reid Arne, a sophomore double major in finance and global politics, said he came to Westminster for two reasons: the intimate educational environment and to continue playing soccer.
Arne transferred to Westminster from Brigham Young University (BYU) with about 105 credits. He said he felt like his learning experience at BYU was more oriented towards exams and achieving high grades, and he wanted to feel that he was growing as a person instead.
Arne also received a scholarship to Westminster to play on the men’s soccer team.
Arne’s teammate, Alec Marshall, a senior sociology major who transferred from Cal State Fullerton, said he had a similar reason for attending Westminster.
He said he was drawn to Westminster because of the academics, his desire to attain a college degree and the ability play for the men’s soccer team.
Negative Student Experience
Some Westminster student athletes said that credit transfer problems had a negative effect on their overall transfer.
Ellis, a junior public health major, transferred to Westminster with 45 credits and received credit for all but one course.
“The school told me that they would not accept the class, Medical Terminology, because they did not offer it as a course,” Ellis said.
Ellis said because she did not receive credit for the class, it left her with eight countable credit hours instead of the NCAA-required 12 countable credit hours and therefore ineligible to play her first season at Westminster.
Sarah Reiber, a junior business management major, said she had a similar problem with her transfer credits.
Reiber transferred to Westminster in 2018 from Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington. She said she came to Westminster with 90 credits and an associate’s degree, but not all of her credits transferred because Westminster did not offer the equivalent classes.
“I do think Westminster can do a better job accepting credits especially for transfer students,” Reiber said.
Positive Student Experience
Even though some student athletes said they had a difficult time managing their transfer credits, others said they had a more positive experience.
Marshall, a senior sociology major, said he earned approximately 80 credits prior to Westminster.
“All of my credits transferred, but not all counted for my major,” Marshall said. “I ended up having to retake several classes similar to those I had participated in at Fullerton.”
Although Marshall said it was not ideal to retake similar classes, he said he was able to take advantage of the situation so that he could play another year of soccer.
According to NCAA transfer terms, Division ll athletes are given four seasons of competition. Athletes have a 10-semester clock which means student athletes have the first 10 semesters as a full-time or part-time student to complete four seasons of competition.
“This actually worked out for me because I used the extra semester it took to make up those classes to utilize the last year of my eligibility,” Marshall said.
Because advisors of a major or minor can decide whether transfer credits fulfill certain requirements, Marshall said he was also able to substitute a similar class from Fullerton with the help of his advisor.
“Fortunately my head of department was flexible and allowed me to substitute one class of his for a credit earned from Fullerton,” Marshall said.
Although some student athletes said they had credit transfer problems, sophomore double major Arne said that Westminster faculty ease the process.
“I’ve actually been really impressed with the way in which Westminster helped me in my transferring process,” Arne said. “Faculty was very proactive in contacting me and encouraging me to come onto campus and get everything sorted before school started.”
*Sicilee William is a member of the Westminster College Women’s Basketball team.