Academic journal article Honors in Practice

Best Practices in Two-Year to Four-Year Honors Transfers

Academic journal article Honors in Practice

Best Practices in Two-Year to Four-Year Honors Transfers

Article excerpt


James Madison University (JMU) and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) teamed up in April 2014 to build a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between their respective four-year and two-year honors programs. This MOU is the basis for the continued work between these two institutions to collaborate and find research to assist other interested honors deans, directors, and coordinators in creating similar MOUs and demonstrating the importance of such agreements in higher education

The information we want to share with others is a framework for the basic features of successful honors transfer agreements or memoranda of understanding. We enumerate a number of specific advantages to two-year and four-year institutions, and it explores a number of discursive patterns and institutional challenges that appear across the spectrum in the formation of honors transfer agreements. This movement toward honors transfer partnerships is essential to the education of the nation's top students.

Two-year to four-year honors transfer agreements are enshrined in the National Collegiate Honors Council's (NCHC) Basic Characteristics of a Fully Developed Honors Program: "When appropriate, two-year and four-year programs [should] have articulation agreements by which honors graduates from two-year programs who meet previously agreed-upon requirements are accepted into four-year honors programs" (National Collegiate Honors Council, Basic). In both the NCHC 2014 Survey of Two-Year Institutions and the NCHC 2014-2015 Admissions, Retention, and Completion (ARC) Survey almost identical proportions of reporting two-year institutions said they already had "honors-to-honors" agreements (58.1% for the survey of two-year institutions and 60. 0% in the ARC survey). In the ARC survey, institutional respondents at four-year institutions also received a question regarding articulation agreements: 30.7% of the NCHC four-year, degree-granting institutions had honors-to-honors agreements with at least one two-year institution (Cognard-Black).

Nevertheless, few students currently transfer between NCHC-member honors programs. The top three reasons students fail to transfer from two-year to four-year honors programs are (1) pro forma transfer agreements and transient professional relationships between program directors, (2) insufficient or opaque marketing and publicity, and (3) nonalignment between programs and/or difficulty in transferring community college honors credits, especially from state to state We conclude that many community college students are unable to complete a four-year honors program upon transferring because the four-year transfer colleges have not yet taken the necessary steps to establish transfer agreements--functional documents and ancillary materials and activities that effectively facilitate transfers of honors students--and not because of inferior academic preparation on the part of the honors students.


The problem of high-achieving honors transfer students demands the immediate attention of both two-year and four-year institutions, especially as there has been a considerable boom in the number and variety of two-year programs in recent years (Moltz). This boom has created a current demand for more networking, communication, and coalition-forming among high schools, community colleges, and four-year institutions.

Mandates among our bedrock public educational institutions are changing and in many ways expanding. Increasing numbers of high school students are taking Advanced Placement (AP), dual enrollment (DE), International Baccalaureate (IB), and Cambridge (CIE) courses in order to improve their chances of gaining admission to the nation's prestigious and selective post-secondary institutions and also to reduce the tuition burden of higher education

Several state community college systems are on the cusp of offering four-year degrees in high-demand fields like nursing, health information management, respiratory therapy, dental hygiene, and aerospace manufacturing. …

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