Transfer and Articulation within Colleges and Universities

By Prager, Carolyn | Journal of Higher Education, September-October 1993 | Go to article overview

Transfer and Articulation within Colleges and Universities


Prager, Carolyn, Journal of Higher Education


For more than a quarter of a century, students of the community college have deplored the decline in quality and quantity of community college transfers to senior institutions [see, for example, 4, 5, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 18, 30]. In recent years, some cite "consistent evidence that initial attendance at a two-year rather than a four-year college lowers the likelihood of one's attaining a bachelor's degree" [21, p. 372; see further 372-73, for a convenient synthesis of related literature]. The attention of community college transfer education in favor of other emphases such as vocational and adult education has motivated a body of reform theory advocating either abandonment of the transfer mission or its revitalization with or without the structural realignment of community colleges in higher education. The reformers fall roughly into thre categories differentiated here by advocacy of particular functional or structural approaches to change.

One group of functionalists argues that the community college should reaffirm its link to higher education and reverse transfer decline by strengthening the academic and general education core [4, 6, 20]. A second, however, proposes that the sector relinquish the transfer function altogether in favor of other functions, such as vocational and adult education, which they consider better suited to the community college's academic capability [3, 5]. A third group believes that the community college is fundamentally flawed by neither being nor belonging to a four-year structure. Within this logic, the community college cannot promote transfer education adequately because of what it is not -- for example, it is commuter not residential, comprehensive not liberal arts, open not selective, two-year not four, and so on. Among its several faults, this perspective ignores the extent to which many senior institutions have embraced associate- and baccalaureate-level vocational curricula, flexible scheduling, and varied delivery modes in response to the perceived needs of their own (often eagerly recruited) populations of nontraditional/new majority students.

As a corrective to the transfer malaise, the structural reformers propose either the transformation of community colleges into four-year institutions or, more radically still, their realignment as branch campuses under the aegis of state universities [see 8, esp. pp. 325-31; 9, esp. pp. 204-7; 11;21, p. 643; 31, pp. 251-52].(1) Because the data speaking to the quantitative and qualitative decline of community college transfer students over the past quarter of a century admittedly suggest that separate responsbility for the first and last two years of undergraduate education may be a contributing factor to transfer decline, the structuralists posit that the organic affiliation of junior- and senior-level program components under the four-year umbrealla would, in and of itself, cultivate greater continuity to the baccalaureate degree. As the most vocal proponent of reformation through conversion, Dougherty, for example, argues that "because of their strong connection to the universities, university two-year branches apparently make it easier for students to transfer than do community colleges" [9, p. 206]. The evidentiary grounds for this is slim, however, based as it is upon studies of branch campus transfer rates from the 1960s and early 1970s, when community college transfer rates were highe than in recent years, as documented and analyzed by Grubb [10] in his comprehensive transfer study based on national longitudinal data.(2)

Higher education institutions have undergone significant organizational change in the last quarter of a century marked by increased aggregation of programs and campuses within multi-unit colleges, universities, and systems [7, 17]. Many consolidated baccalaureate degree-granting institutions now extend postsecondary access through subbaccalaureate offerings to populations found more typically at community colleges. …

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