Dr. Samantha Raynor (Student Success and Undergraduate Studies) received new funding from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for the project “Transfer Credit in North Carolina.”
North Carolina has robust Systems of higher education including 16 four-year public universities and 58 community colleges. In 2012 the UNC Board of Governors and the North Carolina Community College Board signed the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement (CAA) which governs the transfer of credit for students enrolling in any of the 16 UNC institutions with an Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science degree. Several studies have been conducted to determine the efficacy of the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement. The most recent study was conducted by the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research. The authors found that the CAA increased degree completion between 5-13% among transfer students and that students transferring with an AA or AS degree experienced a decrease of between 11-27% in excess credit accumulation. The CAA did not however reduce time to degree and in fact, that AA/AS transfer students took between half a semester to a whole semester longer to graduate after the CAA revisions were implemented.
Nationally, we know that lower income students are more likely to begin their academic careers at a community college and also have lower rates of transfer as compared to higher income students. These students graduate with a bachelor’s degree at only half the rate of their higher income peers (NSC Research Center). Income is only one type of inequity that exists with transfer student success. African-American, Latinx, American Indian, and other underrepresented groups as well as first-generation college students are also more likely to begin at a community college and have transfer and completion rates that are much lower than their white and Asian peers (although one should note that the racial/ethnic group “Asian” comprises a host of nationalities and ethnicities).
These students choose to start at community college because they believe it is a cheaper option toward baccalaureate degree completion. What they do not know is that they must know immediately upon entering the community college what their intended major will be and where they wish to transfer to have any hope of graduating in four years with a baccalaureate degree. Poor articulation agreements, inapplicability of many credits, and “streamlined pathways” that remain poorly aligned all work to increase, instead of decrease, time to graduation which in turn increases the cost to the student. Through an increased awareness of the way credits are applied and curricula are structured, policy adjustments can be made to improve the likelihood of transfer and reduce time to degree, as well as the affordability of the degree overall. This project seeks to make informed recommendations about the importance of credit alignment to preferred academic outcomes.