GEORGIA, LIKE MANY STATES, is in an educational crisis. Too few students graduate with at least an associate's degree. According to Complete College America (2011) data for Georgia, in 2011 only 34 percent of adults over the age of 25 had an associate's degree. Governor Nathan Deal, a champion of higher education, has asked the college community to concentrate on getting students through the educational pipeline and into careers. By 2020, economists predict that the Georgia economy will require a more skilled workforce to be globally competitive. Governor Deal has challenged state educators to have 60 percent of the adult population earn at least a 12-month college certificate by 2020. To reach this goal, Georgia needs to graduate at least 250,000 more students above current graduation trends. Clearly, this goal is unreachable if we only concentrate on students entering college for the first time.
The 25 member colleges of the Georgia Independent College Association (GICA) responded to the governor's challenge by targeting students who have some college experience, but who have not completed a program. The changing educational landscape in our state now includes a robust Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), with almost all of the system's 25 campuses having met rigorous regional accreditation standards. Additionally, an increasing number of TCSG institutions offer associate's of science and/or associate's of applied science degrees. A growing number of students start at a TCSG institution, gain confidence in their academic abilities, and then desire to transfer to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree. Not surprisingly, the transfer process is riddled with difficulties that often leave students having to spend valuable time and money retaking courses at their new college. GICA members sought to remedy the transfer puzzle and, as a first step, partnered with TCSG to find a way to help students move between institutions as seamlessly as possible.
In October 2011, GICA's board created an Articulation Committee that worked for a year to understand the challenges and opportunities facing both transferring students and institutions. Over those 12 months, GICA facilitated the work of the committee as it conducted a series of surveys to understand which courses our member institutions had accepted for transfer credit in the past and, subsequently, which courses they would consider taking in the future. To aid the institutions in this process, TCSG provided course descriptions and learning objectives for each course under consideration. GICA compiled the results of this work, and the committee painstakingly reviewed and evaluated the results in order to better understand how an articulation agreement might be drafted among as many as 25 independent institutions.
This work culminated in an articulation agreement that addressed technical college students both with and without an associate's degree. In February 2013, Governor Deal invited GICA member presidents and TCSG representatives to attend a formal signing ceremony at the State Capitol in order to recognize this significant milestone in helping Georgia students in their quest for a high-quality, affordable education.
The 19 GICA member institutions that signed the GICATCSG articulation agreement have committed to accept a variety of core courses taught by regionally-accredited TCSG institutions. These include 100- and 200-level courses in the humanities, sciences, and mathematics, among other areas. Associate's degree students who have an overall grade point average of 2.5 will be automatically admitted to almost all of the private, not-for-profit colleges participating in this agreement. Four of the 19 institutions went one step further to indicate that students earning an A.S. degree would fulfill their general education/core requirements. This further eliminates any real or perceived barriers to entry that a transfer student may face. …