Articulation / Transfer

Last Updated: 03/31/2024

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Overview

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over a million students have transferred among colleges since 2015. Transfer typically occurs from one institution to another. Transferring and credit articulation allows students to use credits they earn at one institution at another to complete remaining degree or program requirements.

There are many types of transfer paths:

  • Students can transfer between all types of institutions – private, public, large, small, community colleges, and research universities.
  • Students can transfer college credits from a high school dual-credit program (dual enrollment) to a two- or four-year program and can use those credits toward their degree.
  • Students can transfer from a community college or two-year program prior to completing an associate degree, to a four-year college or university to graduate with both an associate and bachelor’s degree (this is called reverse transfer).
  • Students can transfer from an institution in one state to an institution in another state through partnership agreements.

Transfer systems can be set up within states, systems, or through interstate agreements that guide transfer among institutions in multiple states. Many schools have partnerships amongst each other on which credits they will accept and articulate. To make this process easier, some schools offer guaranteed transfer credit acceptance if students transfer from pre-approved schools. Sharing student transcripts between institutions is an important part of this process.

The core of transfer is the transition of credits from one institution to another, while maintaining the value of those credits. Course articulation is an important part of that. Course articulation is the process of comparing the content of courses that are transferred between postsecondary institutions – one institution matches its courses or requirements to coursework completed at another institution. It is the systematic coordination between educational institutions and agencies to ensure the efficient movement of students between those bodies. This helps guarantee students’ learning advancements and assures students won’t have to waste time and money by repeating courses at their new institution. It is different from acceptance into an institution and is applicable toward degree or program requirements.

According to Education Commission of the States (July 2022), at least 31 states have policies requiring a transferable core of lower-division courses and statewide guaranteed transfer of an associate degree; 25 states have reverse transfer policies set in legislation, board policy or memorandums of agreement; and an additional 18 states provide reverse transfer opportunities through institutional agreements and systemwide programs. Many states have set metrics to foster transfer among higher education institutions.  Four common metrics include:

  • Common course numbering: A uniform numbering convention used at all public postsecondary institutions for lower-division courses.
  • Transferable core of lower–division courses: A set of general education courses agreed upon across all public postsecondary institutions. It must be fully transferable at all public institutions. Institutions may have different naming conventions; however, if that is the case, there is a crosswalk for institutions to use in the transfer process.
  • Guaranteed transfer of an associate degree: Guarantees students who are awarded an associate degree before transferring to a four-year institution can transfer all their credits to the four-year institution and enter at the junior-standing level. Most policies state that students are not required to complete any further general education courses unless required for a specific major.
  • Reverse transfer: Allows all public institutions to implement the process of retroactively granting an associate degree to students who have not completed the requirements of an associate degree before transferring to a four-year institution.

Ecosystem Relationship

Transfer and articulation allow students to move among educational systems. Transferring college credits among institutions requires precise recordkeeping and sharing, and a systematic verification process. Postsecondary providers must stay abreast of transfer policies (e.g., institution, state policy, interstate provisions) and initiatives to best serve their students.

Types/Examples

National Reverse Transform Platform The National Student Clearinghouse provides a national automated platform for exchanging reverse transfer student data. Through Reverse Transfer, four- or two-year institutions securely send course and grade information to any two-year institution from which a student has transferred. If eligible, the student is then awarded an associate degree. It doesn’t matter if the student transferred to another associate degree-granting institution first or a bachelor’s-level institution, attended public or private institutions, or transferred across state lines.

Transfer within a state guided by various agreements:  Oregon Transfer Compass is a set of tools to help students successfully navigate the transfer process: The Core Transfer Maps, Oregon Transfer Module,  A Major Transfer Map, Statewide Associate Transfer Degrees, Interstate Passport, Reverse Transfer

Transfer via interstate agreement:  WICHE Interstate Passport® is a national program that enables seamless block transfer of lower-division general education attainment based on an agreed upon set of learning outcomes rather than on specific courses and credits. Members of the Interstate Passport Network are institutionally accredited, nonprofit, public and private two- and four-year institutions. Students who earn a Passport and transfer to another Network member institution will have met all or nearly all of the receiving institution’s lower-division general education requirements.

Dual enrollment: The Dual Enrollment Program at Broward College (BC) is an accelerated program that allows eligible public/charter, private, and home school secondary students to take postsecondary coursework and simultaneously earn both high school and college credits, saving both time and money. Dual Enrollment students are exempt from the payment of application fees, tuition, and laboratory fees.  College courses are offered at BC campuses and centers, including the Broward College Online  campus, and at several high school campuses. Early Admission at BC, a form of dual enrollment, allows eligible high school senior students to enroll in at least 12 credits per term, Fall and Spring, and maintain a college GPA of 2.0 or greater. Early admission students wishing to matriculate to BC are required to submit their final high school transcript showing their graduation date. The  College Academy at BC offers high school juniors enrolled full-time in the program, the opportunity to receive a high school diploma from the School Board of Broward County, Florida, and an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree from Broward College. College Academy students are subject to additional eligibility criteria as published by the College Academy.

 Alternative Terminology

  • Reverse transfer
  • Course articulation
  • Transfer pathways

References

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