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An increasing number of states have made it easier for community college students to transfer to baccalaureate institutions by improving articulation and transfer elements, according to a new policy brief from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Since 2001, states have made strides in all seven elements: statewide policy, cooperative agreements, transfer data reporting, state articulation guides, common core, common-course numbering, and incentives and rewards. The great increases came in the areas of common core and common-course numbering, which respectively jumped from 23 states in 2001 to 34 in 2010, and from 8 states to 18 over the same period.
The most common element used among states are cooperative agreements. Forty-six states use them (based on 2010 data), compared to 40 states in 2001.
“The increasing trend in policy elements shows the clear desire and need for policy interventions that encourage student success after leaving the community college,” said Christopher Mullin, author of the brief and program director for policy analysis at AACC.
AACC noted that research has identified several practices that four-year colleges and universities can use to improve the experiences and successes of transfer students, including:
Better connections needed
While state policy can establish and reinforce practices to improve transfer of credit, in practice it is mostly at the discretion of the four-year institution. They often do have valid concerns, such as ensuring that credits align with the course of study, but there are also nonacademic hurdles, such as offering courses that make their program unique.
The issue of transfer was also noted in AACC’s bellwether report “Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future.”
“Community college transfer students often have to fight to have their credits recognized at baccalaureate institutions, and universities are often reluctant to share data about transfer students and their performance,” the report said. “This ambivalence complicates the effort to improve articulation between the two sectors and lends credence to calls for more comprehensive policy solutions at the state level.”
Transfer was also noted in the report’s recommendations to redesign students’ educational experiences. Improving transfer processes was of one of the strategies cited to help two-year colleges increase completion rates by 50 percent by 2020. The report said state policy should stipulate that students who complete an agreed-upon core of transfer courses and earn an associate degree be allowed to transfer as juniors to a public university without losing credits.
Improving articulation and other transfer elements is important because research indicates it is crucial to the success of transfer students, according to the new AACC policy brief. About 82 percent of transfer students earned their bachelor’s degree when the four-year institution accepted all of the students’ two-year college credits. That rate drops to 42 percent when only some of the credits are accepted.
The brief also examines other aspects of transfer, including its role to the bachelor’s degree, the mobility of credits between institutions, and challenges facing transfer.
One challenge is aligning trends with course credits. Free course and massive open online courses, as well as prior learning experience, are all relatively new approaches to education that educators and policymakers have to address when discussing college credits and transferring credit, according to the AACC brief.
Below, AACC's Christopher Mullin discusses why the issue of transfer is important for community colleges.
Copyright ©2012 American Association of Community Colleges