School officials at Cape Fear Community College and the University of North Carolina Wilmington are developing updated graduation plans under the new Comprehensive Articulation Agreement, which creates clearer paths for students to transfer to four-year universities. Officials at both schools say the new agreement streamlines the transfer process and gives students better guidelines that could help them graduate on time.
Under the old articulation agreement, which was signed in 1997, community college students often weren’t clear on which classes would transfer to a four-year university. Some classes would only count as electives rather than fulfilling general education requirements, and students would end up repeating classes or taking longer than they’d planned to graduate. The new agreement aims to correct that.
UNC-system schools must create graduation plans for all undergraduate majors by May 1 under the new agreement, which was signed in February. Academic departments at UNCW and across the system are creating those plans now, said Terry Curran, UNCW’s associate provost for enrollment management.
Each system school is creating graduation plans in 11 academic pathways, including business, education, biology, history and English, Curran said. The challenge is making the plans specific enough for individual majors but flexible enough so students who decide to change their majors can do so.
“When you’re 17, you’re still trying to figure out who you are, not what you’re going to be,” Curran said. “The strength of the program is to provide as much information as possible so there’s a coordination between the community college and the senior universities so we understand, when you migrate these courses, exactly what you’re getting.”
Community colleges are also eliminating their pre-major programs under the agreement, said Amanda Lee, CFCC’s vice president of instructional services. Before, if students knew they wanted to go to UNCW and major in communications, they would choose the pre-communications major at CFCC.
Now, they’ll choose either an associate of arts or sciences degree and take a college and study skills class intended to help them decide both their future major and future school.
“The student will then have to look at the university and map out their own plan for the classes they’re going to take,” Lee said. “That’s a huge, huge change, but it’s so much more effective. They’re going to be more proactive, more realistic, have a much better idea of what they’re getting into.”
General education classes will transfer one-to-one, Lee said. If a student takes an English composition class at CFCC, she will get credit for an English composition class at UNCW. That’s a change from the earlier articulation agreement, Lee said. Before, students had to complete a two-year associate’s degree to guarantee that all their classes would transfer.
The new agreement’s emphasis on smoother transfers of general education classes doesn’t prevent students from taking electives, Lee said, noting that was something CFCC officials were concerned about when the articulation agreement process began.
“We want them to still have electives, and they still do,” Lee said. “They can still take anthropology, take communications, take some classes that they’ve never been exposed to at all. Sometimes, if you’re undecided, that’s where you find your career.”
Overall, the new agreement could help students graduate sooner, UNCW Chancellor Gary Miller told trustees at their April meeting.
“If you want to finish in four years and you make these choices, you will,” Miller said. “We’ll provide the courses. We’ll have it ready for you.”
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