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2010 December 27 - 12:00 am

POV: NC Articulation Helps Students Plot Their Own Educational Paths

Rory Shawn Fountain
North Carolina has worked diligently to achieve articulation excellence and continues to refine its higher education articulation agreements. The agreements have been created and updated to give students the ability to smoothly transition from high school to community college and on to university.

The high school articulation agreement, for example, makes it possible for many high school students to get community college credit based upon successful completion of courses they take in high school. Students can have as much as a semester or more of credits upon entering community college.

High-school-to-community-college articulation agreements can be traced back to one forward-thinking Kentucky congressman, Carl D. Perkins, who served in the House from 1949 to 1984 and was a strong advocate of education for both adults and children. Perkins is remembered as a champion of students who did not consider attending college to be an option.

Perkins helped create policies that made career and technical education (CTE) possible in high schools. He also helped create the Vocational Education Act of 1963 (VocEd); subsequent amendments to the act mandated vertical alignment and articulation between high schools and community colleges. The Vocational Education Act was renamed the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Act to honor its creator upon his death in 1984.

This law funds CTE programs nationwide by allocating funds for teacher salaries, equipment, classroom supplies and almost everything related to CTE classes except the buildings. The Perkins Act also created a competitive grant opportunity called College Tech Prep (CTP). Tech Prep has been in the forefront of improving articulation agreements between high schools and community colleges. This program teams business and industry professionals with educators from high schools and colleges to work together on curriculum, articulation and programs of study.

The programs of study unify elements of secondary and postsecondary courses. The programs are intended to lead to industry-recognized credentials, certificates at the postsecondary level or an associate degree. In order to remain in compliance with criteria developed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, curriculum work teams composed of faculty and program-specific curriculum specialists were created.

In North Carolina, more than 200 high school and community college faculty, curriculum specialists, counselors, registrars, and instructional administrators worked through issues related to placement tests, documentation and evaluation. Recommendations from the teams were incorporated into the North Carolina High School to Community College Articulation Agreement. In November 1999, each campus of the North Carolina Community College System endorsed, adopted and accepted the agreement, which was updated in 2004.

Here’s an example of how the agreement works: A student in a North Carolina high school can take two courses, Construction Technology I and II, and get college credit for Introduction to Carpentry at any North Carolina community college. High school students can also take college classes for high school credit.

A good example of a Tech Prep program at work on a community college campus is the MagnIT Program at my college, Catawba Valley Community College, in Hickory, N.C. This program is funded through a Tech Prep grant and has high school students coming to campus to take network and information technology classes. These college credit classes count toward the high school students’ course requirements for graduation.

I have seen this MagnIT program impact a troubled teen’s life. I was fortunate enough to have a student, John (not his real name), ask to be an intern for the technology department in my previous K-12 school district. The internship was really a dropout prevention device to get John interested in school. It worked. John was bitten by the technology bug and made it his ambition to work in the technology field.

John worked hard and met the criteria needed for acceptance into the program. He excelled in his MagnIT classes at CVCC while finishing his high school diploma. John went on to graduate from CVCC, a first-generation college graduate who is now working at a local telecommunications company. His is just one of many success stories that can be linked to high school to community college articulation.

Although John has not gone on to university, other community college graduates can benefit from articulation between community colleges and four-year institutions. After completing an associate degree from a North Carolina community college, a student can move seamlessly into the university system, owing to the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement Between the University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Community College System.

This agreement contains the guidelines defining a 44-credit-hour general education core that, if completed at a community college, is both fully transferable to UNC institutions and will satisfy general education requirements. This means that a transfer student who completes the general education core at a North Carolina community college will not be required to take other general education courses at a UNC institution, even if his 44-credit-hour core does not completely match the university’s core.

North Carolina community colleges have also created articulation agreements with private colleges and universities. Community college presidents participated in signing the Independent Comprehensive Articulation Agreement in August 2008. This mirrors the articulation agreement between the community colleges and the UNC system, making the transition seamless for all community college graduates going on to private four-year institutions in North Carolina.

Twenty-four of the 36 private institutions are included in this articulation; the other twelve schools already have bilateral agreements with individual community colleges. This agreement is aimed at helping meet the growing demand for teachers, nurses and engineers. But it also helps students plotting their educational paths.

Scott Ralls, president of the N.C. Community College system, summed it up by saying, “This is a real benefit for our students, it gives them their own ease of planning for their success.”

Rory Shawn Fountain is an IT Director at Catawba Valley Community College

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