By Amy Resnic
Community colleges are the optimal place for many students to begin their postsecondary education. Starting at a community college may be driven by financial reasons, flexible schedules, career choice, or low high school grades, among other reasons. However, in todayӳ competitive job market, many students are deciding at some point to continue their education beyond a two-year program.
Continuing beyond a two-year education requires transferring to a new school. One of the most important parts of the transfer process is reviewing courses at each school to determine which are comparable and eligible for transfer. This may be done on an ad hoc basis, but to make the most efficient use of dollars and time spent on courses, it is wise for students to research and compare any formal articulation agreements that are currently in existence.
What are articulation agreements?
Articulation agreements are formal, written agreements between two or more educational entities, usually a community college and a four-year traditional program. These program-to-program agreements define which courses the receiving school is required to accept from the community college.
Put simply, the institutions "match" its courses or requirements, and outline them in the agreement. These courses may be ones that satisfy general education requirements, or ones that satisfy major requirements. For example, a four-year university might have an agreement that if one earns an associateӳ degree at a certain community college, the studentӳ credits will satisfy all freshman and sophomore general education requirements, assuming grade requirements are met.
Educational entities may have multiple, separate agreements between them, with varying provisions, as they may apply to whole degree programs or may be on a course-by-course arrangement. Stipulations are usually found in the agreements such as any GPA requirements that must be met, as well as any program or degree requirements.
Which schools usually have articulation agreements?
Most articulation agreements are between institutions within a particular geographic area or between public community and four-year colleges within a stateӳ system of higher education. Through the years, most states in the U.S. have made it an initiative to have some policy on college transfer of credits for students moving from public community colleges to their four-year schools, and some have passed legislation to do so.
Schools often promote the ease of transferability between themselves as a way to attract students to their institutions. Four-year colleges often have precise articulation agreements with a particular community college, whereby that two-year school is feeding most of the transfer students to that school. Dual admissions programs can also be found where applications to both schools are submitted at the same time, with the agreement that the student may transfer to the four-year college if the associateӳ degree is completed at the community college.
Why should students research articulation agreements prior to choosing a community college?
With more than 1,200 community colleges in the United States, serving approximately 6.5 million students, community colleges have become an essential part of post-secondary education. Competitiveness for jobs in the United States has challenged institutions to boost graduation rates and challenged students to successfully complete a baccalaureate degree.
A studentӳ chances of successfully transferring are greatly improved when community colleges and four-year institutions work together to ensure that the majority of credits earned at the community college count towards their degree. Students thereby benefit by completing their coursework sooner, and having more financial and career options.
How should students begin researching their options?
The first step a student can take is to check the schoolӳ website for any published listings of articulation agreements in place. Most community colleges provide detailed information on their website with course or degree equivalents at four-year colleges within their system.
Most importantly, when researching community colleges, a student should speak to an academic advisor at the college to see what arrangements are in place between that college and other institutions. Students should look for a college with strong academic advising, because those advisers will be able to guide students to take courses that will transfer according to the articulation agreement.
Ultimately, while articulation agreements should make the transfer process easier, it is up to the student to be diligent in researching all information about transferring to that particular college.