Starting this fall, it should be easier for community college students to transfer course credits to UNC system campuses.
On Friday, leaders of the North Carolina Community College System and the University of North Carolina system signed an agreement that establishes clearer rules and academic pathways for students who move from two-year to four-year institutions.
The new Comprehensive Articulation Agreement was two years in the making and replaces the last pact from 1997. About 500 faculty from both systems consulted on the painstaking process to organize, sequence and standardize general education courses.
Community college students have long complained of the bureaucratic nightmare of figuring out what courses to take and what courses are accepted at the four-year campuses. Sometimes they lost momentum when their hard-earned credits didn’t transfer to a university.
The revised rules will go into effect for new college transfer students in the fall.
“Many North Carolina students will be able to transfer credits more easily, thus saving time and money and removing barriers to their degree,” said Peter Hans, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, at a rare joint meeting of the two governing boards. “We are not competitors for resources. We are allies in educating North Carolina citizens and its workforce.”
Community College System President Scott Ralls said the new process will reduce the the likelihood that students will have to repeat courses on the way to university diplomas.
“It certainly will save time, but it’s also going to save money because students have to pay tuition when they have to repeat a course,” Ralls said. “It also then saves money for taxpayers.”
The pipeline from community colleges to four-year universities is increasingly popular. There are 24,000 students in the UNC system who started their studies at a community college.
The community college system has 320,000 degree-seeking students, Ralls said, and one-third of them are there with the intention of transferring to a four-year university.
“What we know is that it’s important for them to begin that planning early to know what courses they need to take that are guaranteed and then to decide their majors,” he said.
The agreement establishes foundational courses that will transfer to all UNC campuses. It requires coursework that helps community college students map their academic progression. And it will offer students who transfer to UNC guaranteed entry as juniors with full credit if they complete an associate’s degree at a community college. But students do not have to finish the degree in order to transfer certain credits they have amassed.
Students at Friday’s announcement applauded the changes.
Kadesha White, 20, transferred to N.C. State University from Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. She said she had seen fellow students with headaches over where they could successfully transfer.
“It changed a lot of people’s minds,” she said. “It’s like, ‘This is the school I want to go to, but everything that I’ve done so far would be in vain.’ ”