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Transfer students have increased by almost 250% in 20 years. Why? And what is next?

Welcome to Awake58! If you missed last week’s edition exploring the new apprenticeship announcement and the child care grant, click here

We went deep on transfers this week, including a review of the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement and sharing student stories … We talk to a policy analyst from the Hunt Institute about reverse transfers in our podcast … Pat Skinner, president of Gaston College, formally retires … 

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Over the past two years of covering our community colleges, we have met a great number of students who have either transferred to a four-year institution from a community college or plan to do so.

Those students have been part of a larger trend. Transfers have increased by almost 250% in the past 20 years. In fall 2018, 11,218 community college students transferred to UNC System schools.

Why does this matter to the whole state?

As my colleague Molly Osborne wrote this week, “Improving pathways from community colleges to four-year universities is vital for our students, our state, and our future. Getting a good job today requires more than a high school diploma, yet just shy of half of North Carolinians ages 25 to 44 have some form of postsecondary education currently. If these trends continue, North Carolina is projected to have 400,000 fewer workers in 2030 with the education needed than what the workforce will demand.”

Click here to read our story.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on transfers and transitions for our students, and any ideas you have for how the system might improve. Just reply to this email.

See you out on the road,


Director of Growth,

Meet Elizabeth Vanegas and understand her transfer story

I am particularly proud of our work capturing the stories of students as they traversed the process. Meet Elizabeth in this piece and learn more about the opportunities she had along the way.

Elizabeth Vanegas wanted to go to college. To get there, she went the way of an early college — a partnership between a public school system and a community college — to earn the first two years of college credit while also earning a high school diploma.

“My family is low-income, and so my parents were unable to afford to put both me and my older sister through four years of college,” Vanegas said. “That’s why I made the decision to go to an early college. I was able to receive my associate without paying for it.”

Vanegas enrolled at North Carolina State University at 18 years old, and she was already a junior by credits thanks to the classes she transferred from the community college.

Elizabeth is on track to graduate. Our article explains how she navigated the process. Click here to read more!

Transforming transfer: Clearing pathways from 2-year to 4-year colleges

In the fall of 2018, more than 11,000 students transferred from one of North Carolina’s community colleges to a UNC System university — the most ever. They are transferring under the rules of the 2014 Comprehensive Articulation Agreement (CAA). 

Molly Osborne does a great job examining the CAA, including the provision that guarantees admission to any student with an associate degree in arts or science to one of the UNC System schools, guaranteed general education transfer credits, and more.

One of Molly’s key points: Higher education in North Carolina is what academics call “institution-driven.” That means even though there is a statewide agreement, the bulk of how transfer actually works comes down to the policies and agreements between colleges. And between the state’s 58 community colleges, 16 public universities, and 36 private universities, there are hundreds of transfer agreements. 

For more on how we got to this point, and the complexities, check out her piece.

Is NC improving the transfer process and outcomes? We explored the research.

“Transfer students too often have lower completion rates and follow inefficient pathways to the baccalaureate,” Mark D’Amico and Lisa Chapman said in the “Community College to University Transfer” brief for myFutureNC.

My colleague Mebane Rash lifts up findings from this brief, along with a recent Belk Center report, in her piece breaking down the research.

As Mebane notes, the D’Amico and Chapman brief highlights four promising practices in North Carolina: articulation agreements, dual enrollment, early colleges, and reverse transfers.

For more highlights from the research, check out Mebane’s piece.

All of our other transfer reporting

The transfer process and CAA, at present, are not necessarily built for students with workforce or technical degrees — as the journey of Forsyth Tech student Bailey Artz shows. For Bailey’s story, and to understand why some are calling for expanding the transfer process to include workforce degrees, read this piece. …

If you’re a podcast person, check out Alex Granados’ interview with James Mikolowsky, a policy analyst at The Hunt Institute. Mikolowsky talks about the institute’s Attainment for All research on reverse transfers. As Alex notes: Reverse transfer, sometimes called degree reclamation, just means that “if a student has met the requirements for a degree, regardless of where they earned the credits, they should have the option to receive that degree and obtain the competitive advantage that degrees confer.” Give it a listen. …

Mebane writes in the final piece in the series that ‘U-turns are allowed’. She spotlights the design thinking exercise that led to Stanly Community College embracing the role of the U-turn and pathways, Scott Ralls’ testimony to Congress on transfers, and a student named Michael Denning. You don’t want to miss this piece.

Quick hits

DCCC and Wake Tech are among 26 U.S. community colleges with Fulbright scholars in the past year, according to a piece from my colleague Eric Frederick. Both Princess Solomon of Wake Tech and Timothy Gwillim of Davidson County Community College were awarded the honor. As Eric explains, “The Fulbright Program, funded primarily by Congress, was created in 1946 ‘to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,’ according to its website. More than 3,000 students, professionals, and scholars (college faculty, researchers, and administrators) participate each year, along with about 4,000 visitors to the United States from more than 160 countries.”

Pat Skinner’s last day as president of Gaston College was Friday, February 28, as the Gaston Gazette reports. Skinner noted last week: “Our Board of Trustees has announced the naming of an Acting President for Gaston College while they continue the search process for my successor.  Starting on March 1, 2020, Ms. Cynthia McCrory, current Vice President for Finance, Operations and Facilities, will serve as Acting President.”

Congratulations to Nathan Ramsey who was just announced as the Executive Director of the Land of Sky planning agency.

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Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.