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It seems to me that there are three basic moves a regional college or university can make to ameliorate and maybe even benefit from the trend to turn community colleges into 4-year institutions. They can either move closer, move up and/or move in.

Which move you chose first depends on who you are, and how well you are currently articulating with the community college next door. If you are a regional university with a poor record of collaboration with the community college you need to move closer. Let’s discuss that option today and the others later.

For years, community colleges and their 4-year counterparts have entered into “articulation agreements” that would in theory assure students of a smooth transition from their 2-year campus to the nearby 4-year campus.

Historically, these transitions have not been very smooth in part because the 4-year institution did not have “its heart in it”. Student enrollment and advisement has not been facilitated, credit promised for the units taken is often sacrificed by additional requirements of the departments in which the students enroll, and costs go up dramatically as does the complexity of the system the new student must navigate.

All of this and more led a friend, who is a President of a community college, to comment that his “articulation agreements are very inarticulate.” You must go beyond articulation agreements and enter into full partnerships.

You should understand that even if the community colleges are allowed to become four-year institutions and decide that they want to pursue this course, they will likely not have a degree to offer for a year or two. This is the time to take the articulation agreement out of the dusty files and study what changes could be made to it that would delay their entry into your market.

Unless your articulation agreement works well and more than 20% of your students come as a result of the agreement, (and that would put you in the top 5% nationally) you need to move closer.

The barriers cited above –which you should eliminate totally– are the internal creation of your institution. Facilitate student advisement by coordinating with the community college advisors and setting up special services teams to deal with them and begin to view enrollment as a seamless process which starts in the community college’s website and ends with the student being accepted and funded, without having to leave his or her campus. If you put your heart into it, you can do it.

Articulate fully and without reservation even when you are giving your partner an advantage, which your faculty does not think you should give. There’s never a good time to maximize the income you receive at the expense of the students who believe that they are earning transferable units.

Students coming from the community college should be sold on your university way before they are ready to enroll and just after the completion of their first year. Assuming the student qualifies academically, it is time to bring that student on campus. A basic required course taught by a very good professor would really help to sell the student on your institution and through student testimonial serve to attract the best students.

Sharing the most interesting aspects of your student’s life experience with them should follow next. Of course, if you have a ball team worth watching, share the tickets. Declaring intent to attend your institution after graduation should be sought early and early admission must be the norm, so as to give them preference. And so on, opening the doors wide and laying down the red carpet, while maintaining your standards is the way to go. Treat their faculty as you would your own, if they have faculty who are very good, integrate them into your faculty and consider joint appointments.

Turn all of these practices into a more formal Partnership Agreement to expand and extend your articulation agreement and negotiate it with an eye to your main objective, to increase your productive interdependency so that independence is not needed.

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