Across the nation, state community college systems and individual colleges are heeding the call to better advise students on their pathways and ensure that those pathways move along smoothly and logically. They are taking steps to create better partnerships, ensure that credits transfer, undertake outreach to students, and support them at each step along the way.
Collin College in McKinney, Texas, is among a group of colleges in the northern part of the state that has worked in a decentralized fashion to establish articulation and pre-admission agreements with university partners, which provide 2+2 maps and pathways to bachelor’s degrees, through the North Texas Community College Consortium.
This excerpt is from an article in the upcoming April/May issue of AACC’s Community College Journal.
The consortium website, ntxccc.org, provides an electronic bulletin board of sorts for community colleges to post their degree requirements for different majors, university partners like the University of North Texas to do the same, and conversations to result, says Jamie Mills, director of academic partnerships at Collin College.
“When this office was restructured and refocused on getting students transferred, to get information out to the students … we spread the net pretty far,” Mills says. “We just got hold of universities and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to make specific pathways that we can disseminate to our students.’ Once agreed upon by both institutions, we give [articulation agreements] to advisers who have them for the students.”
The consortium website shows pathways at Collin College and elsewhere, Mills says.
“[Universities] go into the Collin College folder, see what we have in there and then post,” she says. “We might have a 2+2 in information technology with three or four universities, but not with other ones because they didn’t have anything that would flow nicely. They might add their stuff after they’ve contacted us and said, ‘We’d rather have this class than that class.’”
The two challenges Mills cites are the time it takes to review such agreements on both sides and then getting the word out to the students.
Community colleges and their university partners have worked harder recently to ensure articulation agreements are not just words on paper, Mills says. They need specific components such as the ability to get a degree in a timely manner — and an agreement with four-year schools that they notify Collin when students who leave before completing an associate degree later get through the remaining coursework at the university level, “so we can get them an associate degree.”
Above all, community colleges need to keep at it, Mills says. “This is a never-ending process,” she says. “Things change all the time. We want people to be on the lookout for these pathways and this information. If they need help finding it, we want them to ask their advisers, call this office or look at the website. We’re here to help them get through this.”