Jul 3, 2009

Articulation What?

One of the reasons I went back to school to get my Certificate in College Counseling was so I could learn and master the peculiar jargon that goes with this business. I understood about EA, ED (not the medical term), COA, and EFC, but when someone addressed the growing number of articulation agreements between two- and four-year institutions, I was at a loss. In fact, I find most people have no idea what an articulation agreement is, and almost no one is aware of what these agreements can mean for high school graduates who are either unprepared for or unable to afford a four-year institution.

Suppose instead of articulation, I substitute transfer. Then I see the fog lift, and the term comes into focus. An articulation agreement is a formal arrangement to transfer a defined set of academic credits between an academic program of one institution (usually a two-year community college) and a program within a college or campus of a 4-year institution. Many of these agreements come with guaranteed admission provisions enabling students to make smooth transitions between programs and eventually earn bachelor’s degrees. In other words, with careful planning and solid counseling support, a student can enter a community college, complete certain specified requirements, and then automatically transfer to a four-year degree-granting program from which he or she will ultimately graduate. For example, a student earning an associate’s degree at our local Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) who has followed certain guidelines can have guaranteed admission to any of the following schools:

Art Institute of Washington

Old Dominion University

Bluefield College

Park University

Christopher Newport University

Radford University

College of William and Mary

Randolph College

ECPI College

Regent University

Emory & Henry College

Regis University

Ferrum College

Strayer University

George Mason University

Sweet Briar College

George Washington University

Trinity University (DC)

Georgetown University

Troy University

Hollins University

United States Sports Academy

Liberty University

University of Mary Washington

James Madison University

University of Phoenix

Longwood University

University of Virginia

Lynchburg College

Virginia Commonwealth University

Mary Baldwin College

Virginia State University

Marymount University

Virginia Tech

National-Louis University

Virginia Union University

Norfolk State University

Virginia Wesleyan College

Nyack College

This is actually a pretty sweet deal that can save the smart student thousands of dollars and the pain of going through a more rigorous college admissions process during their senior year of high school.

In part because students began to recognize the financial and admissions advantages of articulation agreements, community colleges have seen an uptick in the number of students on the transfer track. But all is not well. According to the Washington Post, many schools are experiencing serious budget reductions which may affect the ability of community colleges to deliver on their promises. Even after losing 10% of its state funding and preparing for the possible loss of another 5%, NOVA finds summer enrollment up 10% from last year. Obviously this has something to do with the economy. But between reductions in funding and increases in enrollment, NOVA may be unable to provide enough courses for students seeking to graduate within the two-year time frame required by many articulation agreements. This would effectively kill the dreams of many students trusting community colleges to provide an economical and sure path to a bachelor’s degree. Maybe we should do something about that.

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