ERIC Identifier: ED288577
Publication Date: 1983-06-00
Author: Kintzer, Frederick C.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Junior Colleges Los Angeles CA.

The Multidimensional Problem of Articulation and Transfer. ERIC Digest.

Transfer (the movement of students and of their academic credits from one school to another) and articulation (services for the transfer student) are multidimensional community college phenomena. While problems related to standard course and credit transfer are minimal, and the adaptability of lower division work toward upper division requirements is much improved, community colleges must now give concerted effort to solving problems related to extra-institutional or experiential learning, external or distance education, international education (foreign students), and transfer relations with area vocational schools and postsecondary proprietary institutions. Indeed, transfer and articulation can no longer be thought of solely in terms of the linear progression of community college students to four-year institutions.


While precise definitions and counting procedures vary considerably among institutions and states, several categories of transfer students can be roughly identified. These diverse student types and the special problems they pose are discussed below.

Articulated Vertical Transfers, those who move in regular sequence from high school to community college to the university, are the most visible community college transfer students. Indeed, both interinstitutional and statewide articulation agreements are geared to these traditionally-aged "regulars." With the acceptance of associate degrees as transfer currency, attention now needs to be turned to the other two types of "regulars:" fully-enrolled students who transfer prior to associate degree completion and those seeking to transfer occasional courses. Policies regarding these types of transfer students are not consistent or uniform.

The reverse transfers, those who move from a four-to a two-year college, became increasingly visible in the 1970's. In California, for example, Kissler (1980) found that 10,000 students entered the California Community Colleges from the university system in Fall 1979. Despite the recognition of their numbers, however, there has been a critical lack of attention given the "drop-downs" once they are enrolled. Few colleges provide re-orientation, personal counseling, and special career advising. In addition, advanced standing credit is rarely provided for the baccalaureate degree holder who turns to a community college for training in a more salable career area. Clearly, more research is needed to determine the characteristics and aspirations of reverse transfers. The study by Slark (1982), which examines the educational interests and matriculation patterns of these students at Santa Ana College (CA), is a step in the right direction.

The vocational transfer, one who moves to a senior institution as a career/occupational degree candidate, has received considerable attention of late, partially because of the expansion of occupationally oriented curricula at senior institutions. While few statewide pacts carry policies on vocational education transfer, interinstitutional agreements are spreading rapidly. The most popular arrangement is a joint degree program between one or more community colleges and a university. Ohio institutions, for example, have long practiced an "upside down" plan under which the vocational segment of the baccalaureate program is handled by the university, and the general education portion is handled by the community college. Another collaborative style now emerging combines the efforts of community colleges with nearby industries or proprietary schools. Under the common market philosophy at John Wood Community College (IL), for example, vocational students take math and English courses at the college, while training in electronics technology takes place at the Broadcast products division of the Harris Corporation.

The lateral transfers, i.e., those who transfer from one community college to another, make up what is perhaps the largest and least accommodated group of transfer students. Indeed, given the lack of attention paid to these students, it may in some instances be harder to move between two-year colleges than it is to move from the two-year college to the university. Additional work in this area is clearly needed.

The international (foreign) transfer adds a most difficult dimension to articulation and transfer. Because many of these students matriculate without sufficient communications skills, colleges are beginning to recognize the need to provide foreign students with comprehensive articulation services including orientation, testing, counseling, and language instruction. Faced also with the problem of evaluating foreign credentials for academic credit, colleges are beginning to use the services of private agencies that specialize in international education credit evaluation and transfer. To date, however, comprehensive services to foreign students are provided at only a few community colleges.

One final category, nontraditional transfers, includes a variety of students: the adult who returns after years of "stopping out," the applicant who has received earlier training at a proprietary school, and applicants from educational programs in industry or government. Policies on extrainstitutional or experiential learning are difficult to negotiate, because faculties must reach an agreement as to (1) exactly what extracollegiate learning will be counted toward the award of academic credit, and (2) how this learning can be properly documented. Assistance in these matters can be found in two publications of the American Council on Education: The National Guide to Credit Recommendations for Noncollegiate Courses, 1979, and the 1980 Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services, 1980. In addition, several ERIC documents detail procedures used by community colleges in documenting experiential learning.


Clearly, transfer and articulation are complex phenomena involving a variety of students moving between traditional and nontraditional segments of postsecondary education: Valid articulation/transfer agreements will depend on further research into the development of uniform identification and counting systems that can be used by all institutions in identifying and tracking various types of transfer students. In addition, we must clarify the role of nontraditional postsecondary education, and then establish viable relationships between traditional institutions and the noncollegiate organizations now serving large numbers of adult students. While some may stay on the conservative side, others will push to extend programs and services for categories of students heretofore neglected.


Bragg, A.K. Follow-Up Study of Students Transferring from Illinois Two-Year

Colleges to Illinois Senior Institutions in Fall 1979. Report 1:

Mobility Patterns and Pre-Transfer Characteristics. Springfield, IL:

Illinois Community College Board, 1982. 16p. (ED 220 164) College Transfer Guidelines. Jefferson City, MO: Missouri State Department

of Higher Education, 1980. 21 p. (ED 223 281) Community College/University Articulation Policy. Reno, NV: Nevada University

System, 1982. 8p. (ED 221 242) Conroy, D.E. Articulation between Two and Four-Year Institutions. Paper

presented at the National Conference on Remedial and Developmental

Mathematics in College: Issues and Innovations, New York, NY, April

9-11, 1981. 8 p. (ED 201 365) Dallas, Susan (Ed.) Improving Curriculum by Working with High Schools. CSCC

Bulletin, Issue 3. Los Angeles: Center for the Study of Community

Colleges, 1982. 6 p. (ED 219 117) Farland, R., and Cruz, J. Identifying and Assisting Potential Transfer

Students. Sacramento: Office of the Chancellor, California Community

Colleges, 1982. 53 p. (ED 220 162) Fitzpatrick, M.F.J., Sister. The Problem of Nursing Education: Articulation.

Gwynedd Valley, PA: Gwynedd-Mercy College, 1981. 69 p. (ED 211 157) Identifying and Assisting Transfer Students: Survey of Current Policies and

Practices. California Community Colleges. Sacramento: Office of the

Chancellor, California Community Colleges, 1982. Kintzer, F.C. (Ed.). Improving Articulation and Transfer Relationships.

New Directions for Community Colleges, Number 39. Los Angeles: ERIC

Clearinghouse for Junior Colleges, 1982. 117 p. (ED 220 146) Kissler, G.R. Trends Affecting Undergraduate Education in the University of

California. Paper presented at the Board of Regents of the University

of California, Committee on Educational Policy, October 16, 1980. 22p.

(ED 194 138) Knoell, D.M. California College-Going Rates: 1981 Update. Sacramento:

California State Postsecondary Education Commission, 1982. 66 p.

(ED 223 292) Luna, P.R. Community Colleges and Partnerships: Moving Beyond Dialogue for

the 1980's. Paper presented at the Annual Community College Research

Conference, Asilomar, CA, March 26, 1981. 19p. (ED 202 494) Moscowitz, J.E., and Eveslage, S.A. Project for the Evaluation of

Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction. Final Report. Carbondale, IL:

University of southern Illinois, School of Technical Careers, 1980.

125 p. (ED 213 449) Plan for Obtaining Community College Transfer Student Information. Sacramento:

California State Postsecondary Education Commission, 1980. 56 p. (ED

223 279) Renkiewicz, N.K., and others. The Reverse Transfer Student: An Emerging

Population. Preliminary Draft. Field Review Edition. Sacramento: Los

Rios Community College District, 1982. Slark, J. Reverse Transfer Student Study. Santa Ana, CA: Santa Ana College,

1982. 27 p. (ED 221 248) Stewart, B., and Others. Trade and Industry Articulation Project: Final

Report, 1981-82. Norwalk, CA: Cerritos Community College, 1982.

131 p. (ED 217 951) Strain, J.A. Development of an Articulation Handbook. El Dorado, KS: Butler

County Community College, 1982. 14 p. (ED 215 729) Student Guide for Documenting Experiential Learning: Accounting. Fountain

Valley, CA: Coastline Community College, 1979. 52 p. (ED 176 836) Student Guide for Documenting Experiential Learning: Administrative Secretary.

Fountain Valley, CA: Coastline Community College, 1979. 30 p. (ED

176 837) Student Guide for Documenting Experiential Learning: Business Management and

Marketing. Fountain Valley, CA: Coastline Community College, 1979.

50 p. (ED 176 834) Student Guide for Documenting Experiential Learning: General Office Practice.

Fountain Valley, CA: Coastline Community College, 1979. 36 p. (ED

176 835) Student Guide for Documenting Experiential Learning: Personnel Associate.

Fountain Valley, CA: Coastline Community College, 1979. 66 p. (ED

176 838) Student Guide for Documenting Experiential Learning: Sales and Marketing

Management. Fountain Valley, CA: Coastline Community College, 1979.

32 p. (ED 176 839) Student Guide for Documenting Experiential Learning: Travel Agency Operation.

Fountain Valley, CA: Coastline Community College, 1979. 80 p. (ED

176 840) A Student Guide to Receiving Credit for Lifelong Learning, Volume 1. Dayton,

OH: Sinclair Community College, 1980. 95 p. (ED 196 479)

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