What is a Comprehensive Articulation Agreement?

Instructor: Kristin Fromal

Kristin is a school counselor and has a Master's degree in Social Work.

Students who complete an associate's degree at a community college should be able to seamlessly transfer all of these credits in states with a comprehensive articulation agreement.

What is an Articulation Agreement?

An articulation agreement is a contract that governs the transfer of college credits, typically between community colleges and in-state, public universities. Although these often apply to schools within a certain state, they may reach beyond, to other states. Under the conditions of these agreements, most courses taken while earning an associate's degree will be recognized as transfer credit for the purpose of earning a bachelor's degree. Usually, a student must have completed the program of study leading to an associate's degree, such as an Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), or Associate of Engineering (A.E.) in order for the provisions of the articulation agreement to be valid.

Comprehensive articulation agreements, or CAA's, are developed at the state level. According to the Education Commission of the States, 30 states have policies regarding the automatic transfer of an associate's degree, as of 2018. These states include North Carolina, Colorado, and Mississippi. Community colleges in states that lack a comprehensive statewide articulation agreement may have plans with specific public or private universities either in-state or out-of-state. Specific community colleges in states with comprehensive articulation agreements may have additional agreements in place with more universities than may be covered by the statewide CAA.

Admission to a University Governed by a Comprehensive Articulation Agreement

Often, in states with a CAA, students who complete an associate's degree are guaranteed admission to a public university. Admission to a specific campus of the public university, or to some majors, may not be guaranteed under these provisions. When the student transfers, he or she is granted status as a junior at the university where the transfer is sought, and may have completed general education requirements. The student might be required to meet minimum standards, such as an overall 2.0 GPA and a grade of a C in any class for which transfer credit is to be granted.

Admission to technical programs may be limited to those who have completed specific associate's degrees. For example, those who wish to enter a bachelor of science in nursing program might be required to have completed an associate of science in nursing; or those who wish to earn a bachelor of science in engineering may be expected to have earned the associate of engineering.

If a student applies and is denied admission to a university, there may be the possibility to appeal the admissions decision based upon the provisions of the comprehensive articulation agreement.

What are the Benefits?

Several benefits exist to participating in a two-year community college program with a comprehensive articulation agreement with a state university. These include:

  • Attending community college for two years often is a good financial decision, with tuition and living expenses reduced.
  • Students who earn an associate's degree before transferring are more likely to persist through graduation with a bachelor's degree, according to recent research.
  • After earning the associate's degree, most or all credits will transfer, and most students can complete their bachelor's degree in four years.
  • Students may make better choices regarding class selection with a clear map of what credits will transfer under an articulation agreement.
  • Students may be exempt from further general education requirements.
  • If high school grades didn't reflect your academic potential, or if standardized testing results were below the required threshold, an articulation agreement can help students gain admission to schools for which they may otherwise not have qualified.

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