- While over a third of students transfer at least once in their education careers, about 43% of those credits earned are lost, according to a 2017 report from Government Accountability Office — a reality that has many in industry looking at community college and four-year institution partnerships as a way to maintain pathways of success for students and lower their education costs. One such partnership that was highlighted at the annual American Association of Community Colleges convention this week is between George Mason University(GMU) and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).
- In an effort to reduce the potential that students wastefully take more credits than needed to graduate, the NOVA-Mason partnership creates a single system of enrollment and financial aid, with guaranteed course transferability. The setup — where GMU also assigns students personal success and guidance coaches while they are at the community college — has yielded a near 50% transfer student enrollment rate in GMU’s incoming class, officials told The Chronicle of Higher Education. In addition, transfer students' graduation rates are slightly higher than their counterparts.
- Scott Ralls, NOVA president, said during an AAAC conference panel that it's important not to see the partnerships as a catch-all solution for pathway difficulties, even though they are increasing in the face of changing workforce demands, reported the Chronicle. Another panelist, Arizona State University vice-provost for Academic Partnerships Maria Hesse, said "we have legislators who want to distill it down to sound bites — make any associate degree half of a B.A.," arguing that putting in place a transferable major initiative is far more difficult than it may seem.
Articulation agreements between institutions for transferable credits are a core element of community colleges and four-year institutions working together to ensure stable enrollment pipelines, but they can also serve as parts of an overall plan that can save students money while allowing institutions to meet revenue objectives.
NOVA has captured the scope of such a plan with this agreement, and other projects designed to save students money while encouraging persistence. In 2015, the institution emerged as one of the first two-year campuses to offer a slate of courses with no textbook costs, providing students incentive and reward for enrolling solely from a cost-management perspective. Melding that program with this articulation agreement can provide interested students a clear pathway to a four-year degree, and a detailed outline of how much money they can save by enrolling in the program.