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What Are College Articulation Agreements All About?

Read this guide to learn what articulation agreements between colleges are all about and what organizations can help you make your transfer easier!

Thinking about transferring from a community college to a four-year school? Then you need to read this. It's an admission insider's guide to what these articulation agreements between colleges are all about, plus a list of organizations that make transferring colleges easier! Articulation agreements are well known by admission counselors and school administrators in the transfer world. However, ask any student on a community college campus what an articulation agreement is, and my best guess is that their response would be a blank stare. But the purpose of these agreements is to serve and benefit you, the transfer student. Here is some information so you know what articulation agreements are all about.

What are college articulation agreements, anyway?

First things first: articulation agreements are formal partnerships between at least two institutions of higher education. Typically, these agreements exist between a community college and a four-year institution. The goal is to create a seamless transfer for students. Articulation agreements are signed legal contracts. These documents go into great detail regarding guaranteed admission, transfer credits, scholarships, and academic and course requirements. Articulation agreements open the lines of communication between two institutions regarding the important issues transfer students care about. What does all this mean for you? Below, I will explain the structure of what I consider to be a good articulation agreement and give my advice for all transfer students to consider.

Guaranteed admission

You may be thinking, “Guaranteed admission? Did I just read that correctly?!” Yes, you certainly did! It really doesn’t get any better than this: many articulation agreements guarantee the automatic acceptance of any student who has earned an associate degree with a certain cumulative GPA. Some institutions will specify what type of associate degree (Associate of Art vs. Associate of Science vs. Associate of Applied Science) is required for guaranteed admission. Of course, guaranteed admission may exclude certain programs that have higher admission criteria—so be sure to do your college research.

Transfer tip: Find out what the magic GPA number is for the institutions you are considering transferring to and work toward that GPA from the start of your first semester at your current school. Talk to your transfer and academic advisors about what type of associate degree will benefit you and your future plans the most.

Transfer credits

Articulation agreements lay out the four-year institution’s transfer credit policies. Typically, the articulation agreement will specify the maximum number of credits that will transfer. Articulation agreements often offer additional perks as well. For example, they might state that a student may have the four-year institution’s general education requirements waived by earning a specific associate degree.

The part of an articulation agreement that is likely most useful to you is a program-to-program chart. This is a clear and concise table showing exactly how two academic programs align—one at a community college and one at a four-year institution. For example, it shows how an associate degree in English from a community college aligns with a bachelor’s degree in English from a four-year school. Program-to-program charts are extremely useful tools for transfer students. If you know what you want to major in at a specific four-year institution, a program-to-program chart shows you exactly what courses you need to take at your community college that will transfer and keep you on track for graduation.

Transfer tip: Be informed. Find out about articulation agreements and program-to-program charts as early as possible during your time at a community college. Talk to your transfer counselor and use program-to-program charts when making your schedule each semester.

Related: Transfer Trouble: 3 Ways to Prevent Credit Leakage

Transfer scholarships

You’re concerned with how much continuing your education is going to cost. Who wouldn’t be? The scholarship section of your articulation agreement spells out transfer scholarship amounts and any GPA requirements to earn them. So review the scholarship section of your schools’ articulation agreements carefully.

Transfer tip: Start on the right foot and do your best to keep your GPA as high as possible. The higher your GPA, the more scholarship money you are likely to be awarded.  

What next?

Typically, the next step for transfer students is figuring out what institutions your community college has articulation agreements with. However, most articulation agreements are not available for you to read whenever you want. I would recommend reaching out to a counselor in the transfer office at your community college, as they should be knowledgeable about articulation agreements. Your transfer counselor can also connect you with admission professionals at the four-year institutions you are considering transferring to.

Truly, admission counselors are your best resource on articulation agreements at their respective institutions—so take advantage! One of the biggest challenges four-year institutions face in terms of articulation agreements is that transfer students find out about them too late in their time at the community college. Don’t let this happen to you! Be sure to learn about your transfer options as soon as possible.

Related: How Do I Decide Which College I Should Transfer To?

Programs that make transferring easier

These are just a few examples of transfer programs and articulation agreements different states have in place to make transferring easier. Be sure to investigate all the options available to you at your college(s) of interest!

University of California (UC) System: Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG)

  • Program for California community college students transferring to six UC campuses (Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz)
  • Fall admission guaranteed for students who meet specific requirements
  • Available to all majors in the College of Letters and Science, except Performing Arts
  • Not available to majors in the College of Engineering or the College of Creative Studies
  • Some majors require completion of specific coursework, and other campus-specific requirements apply.
  • Learn more about UC's transfer guarantee.

Massachusetts Community Colleges: Commonwealth Commitment Program

  • Students starting at one of 15 Massachusetts community colleges can transfer seamlessly to a state university or University of Massachusetts campus at a reduced cost.
  • Admission and transfer of credits are guaranteed when students complete their associate degree in less than two and a half years and maintain full-time, continuous enrollment and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Other program benefits include a freeze on tuition and fees, a 10% tuition rebate paid back at the end of each successful semester, and a tuition credit for the last two years.
  • Originally available for only six majors but many more added in fall 2017
  • There are also over 350 articulation agreements between Massachusetts community colleges and 90+ private institutions.
  • Learn more about the Commonwealth Commitment Program.

Florida College System: Transfer Programs

  • Associate in Science to Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Associate degree recipients can transfer into related bachelor’s programs at many Florida colleges through a 2+2 transfer agreement (see page ## for more details on this type of admission partnership).
  • Transfer Agreements with Non-public Institutions: Available between many Florida College System institutions and independent or private schools, allowing students to enter as juniors
  • Concurrent- or Joint-Use Programs: Some bachelor’s degrees offered through partnerships with different state and private universities, with coursework completed on campus or online
  • Learn more about the Florida College System's transfer agreements.

If you're going to transfer, be smart

Transferring is a stressful process for any student who chooses to do so. So make sure you're making the process as easy as you can for yourself by researching your options. Articulation agreements are typically your best bet to guaranteeing the hard work you’ve already done will be valued and accepted—earning you credits toward your degree and your future.

Ready to start your hunt for the best transfer school for you? Try using our College Search tool!

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