Expanding transfer agreements

By Tabitha Whissemore

Transfer agreements between community colleges and four-year institutions aren’t new. But community colleges and universities are expanding and strengthening partnerships to meet the needs of both students and employers.

At Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC), 50% of transfer students transfer within the University of Wisconsin (UW) system, and 50% of those students transfer to UW-Green Bay. NWTC and UW-Green Bay have partnered in creating more than 20 programs to transfer agreements.

Now, they’re partnering to offer transfer opportunities for learners to earn associate of arts and associate of arts and science degrees. The agreement is set up specifically for transfer to the university into any liberal arts program.

“In Wisconsin, technical colleges have been very limited in offering a liberal arts transfer degree,” said NWTC President Jeffrey Rafn.

More pathways

The new agreement, announced in April, is the result of at least a decade of relationship-building with UW-Green Bay and is in response to the “continuing need and desire by students – and our region – to increase the number of bachelor’s degrees,” Rafn said.

And, because “the population we serve is not overly mobile,” meaning they stay within the region, “we want to make sure we have these strong agreements.”

NWTC has advisors and is hiring a transfer coordinator so if a student has any problems as they transfer, “we’ll help them solve it,” Rafn said. He added that UW-Green Bay will have an office on the NWTC campus.

The agreement also responds to the fact that students often aren’t going through college in a straight line. They may start and stop or move from one college to another and back again.

“More and more, students are going to take their education in pieces. They may get a certificate by coming here for one semester, or need two courses to get a job,” Rafn said. “We’re really thinking about how is it we can allow students to move in and out while they’re conducting their life.”

That includes moving from UW-Green Bay to NWTC. If a student drops out of UW-Green Bay and enrolls at NWTC, “we’ll give them the credits,” Rafn said.

Supports like transfer agreements are helping to create a comprehensive system of public higher education for the region – something Rafn and the chancellor of UW-Green Bay see as an “opportunity and responsibility.”

A ‘big deal’

Oakland Community College (OCC) has had a tight relationship with Oakland University (OU) for many years. The university is across the street from one of OCC’s five campuses, and it’s a top transfer choice for OCC students. Some Oakland University students also will come to OCC to pick up a class here or there.
“We’ve never competed,” said OCC Provost Jennifer Berne. “We have complementary missions.”

In April, the two Michigan institutions signed a new transfer articulation agreement to benefit graphic design students at OCC. The agreement increases the number of transferable graphic design credits from 16 to 20. Students will then only have 44 credits left to complete their bachelor’s degree at OU. It will not only save students money, but also encourage them to complete OCC’s associate degree.

“In this articulation, they’re taking every credit a student earns and putting them directly into their bachelor of arts. It’s a clean 2+2,” Berne said. She added that it might not seem like a “big deal,” but it’s “generous” of OU to accept that many credits.

It’s a big deal for students, too. OCC’s graphic design program is big – hundreds of students are in the program. Berne said. “Faculty are our biggest advocates,” promoting to students the benefit of completing at OCC and transferring to OU, she added.

And, it’s a big deal for local employers. There’s been a demand for people trained in graphic design, including in the manufacturing industry.

Will this latest agreement lead to a boost in enrollment? “Maybe, maybe not,” Berne said. But transfer agreements can drive persistence and retention.

“We have less trouble getting students to us than we have helping them arrange their lives and finishing,” she said. “Knowing this is on the horizon will help them get through.”

It may also lead to even more agreements with OU.

“While I was signing the paperwork, their dean of nursing came up to me and said, ‘Let’s do something with an RN-to-BSN program,’” Berne said.

There’s more to the story! Read the full article in CC Daily.

Tabitha Whissemore

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.