College junior and nursing major Olivia Habel sat frustrated in a meeting with a transfer advisor at a small private college in eastern Pennsylvania. The advisor told her she would not be able to transfer all of her earned credits from her former university to the new private college. That would mean Olivia would have to pay thousands of additional dollars in tuition and stay in school two to three years longer than she would if the school accepted her credits.
Olivia’s transfer trouble was caused by a little known but crucial document: an articulation agreement.
What is an articulation agreement?
An articulation agreement is an agreement between a college or university with another school, often a two-year or junior college, which provides an outline that informs prospective students which courses and course credits will be accepted upon transfer. Sometimes, articulation agreements directly state which courses the student will need to take at the first college to be able to then seamlessly complete the degree at the second school.
There are different types of articulation agreements. One is between a college or university that states which credits will transfer to fulfill general education requirements. General education classes — also known as core classes — include subjects such as math, history, and English. Another type of articulation agreement concerns major departments and disciplines. This agreement states which major courses will transfer to the new school. For example, many of the credits Olivia earned in both her nursing major and as part of general education requirements did not transfer.
Since only about 12 credits would transfer, Olivia’s advisor suggested she go to a local community college, because it has an articulation agreement with her new college.
Glenn Bozinski, Director of Admissions at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., says articulation agreements are basically a “road map” or a set of rules to follow, and they are beneficial to not only transfer students, but also high school students who plan to go to a two-year school first, and then complete a degree at a four-year college or university.
Ask — and do it early!
Bozinski says its important for students to ask schools whether they have articulation agreements, and what they contain if they do, because not all schools have them.
“My advice is to talk to the two-year school your students are looking at and find out about the articulation agreements. Even if they have a long term plan to get a bachelor’s degree, have them talk to the two-year school about which four-year schools they work with and what the best way is to safeguard the path that gets them there,” Bozinski says.
Bozinski says there are many benefits in looking at a college or university with articulation agreements. Articulation agreements help with planning the college career because prospective students can see — in writing — that they are taking the correct classes to transfer to the four-year college or university. Also, an articulation agreement provides information about which two-year schools work with which four-year colleges or universities. They eliminate missteps that would lengthen the student’s education, and that cost more money.
Olivia has spent at least $100,000 on tuition so far and she still is not a nurse. She has had to attend three schools (two of which had agreements between them) and she still has another year of school before she completes her nursing degree.
Have students do their homework
Olivia says she wished she would have asked her advisors more questions when she was attending her first school.
“I should have asked the advisors there while taking the classes, how would they transfer if I ever got to that point?” Olivia said.
Olivia adds that she wishes educational institutions would mention their articulation agreements to students at the the very beginning, without requiring students to ask for something they do not even know exists.
Still, once Olivia was alerted to the existence of such an agreement, she was able to understand exactly what she needed to do — and how much it would cost — for her to complete her nursing degree.
But that was probably a little too late.
“It’s kind of overwhelming when you go to one school, finally get adjusted, and then it’s like, ‘Alright, I have met these requirements, now, I have to go to another school, which means I have to go through the ordeal all over again, which I had to figure out and get comfortable with not only the teaching but how the school is run,” Olivia said.
Bozinski advises students who plan to attend, or are already enrolled in, a two-year school to immediately talk to counselors at any four-year schools they may be interested in attending. Getting as much information as possible can help prevent students from making quick decisions that could cost them time and money.
“Students shouldn’t decide one morning that they are going to transfer,” Olivia said. “They should take some time to think about their options. It doesn’t seem like a big decision, but it is.”