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Executive Summary
The Importance of 2/4 Transfer
The Different Dimensions of Transfer
The Accountability Problem and Transfer “Rates”
Research on State Policy and Transfer
Six-State Focus
    New Mexico
    New York
    North Carolina
Lessons Learned about State Transfer Policy
Conclusions and Recommendations
State Resources
About the Author
The Institute for Higher Education Policy
The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

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North Carolina is largely a public sector state, although it has a strong and well-respected group of private four-year colleges. The 16 public four-year institutions serve about 39% of undergraduate students in the state; the 58 public community colleges serve about 43%; and the 43 four-year private colleges enroll about 18% (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2000). The state has long prided itself on its low tuition, and despite recent increases, tuition remains low. In 2001–02, in-state tuition and mandatory fees at public four-year institutions averaged $2,433 annually, and in-state tuition for full-time students at community colleges averaged $1,021. The state has been slow to build need-based state grant programs, presuming that the lowest-income students’ needs were met through low tuitions and federal grant aid. After tuition rose in the late 1990s, the state created a grant program for community college students and another for public four-year students. Roughly a third of new tuition increases are allocated to these need-based aid programs. The community college grant program was instituted at the same time that the legislature increased tuition in the community colleges, specifically to take advantage of the new federal tuition tax credit.


North Carolina has an unusual governance structure, combining segmental governance with local boards and statewide planning. The University of North Carolina Board of Governors is the statewide governing board for all the public four-year institutions, and it also has statutory responsibility for statewide planning, policy work, and data collection for all higher education, including the public community colleges and private four-year institutions. Each of the four-year public campuses also has a local governing board.

The State Board of Community Colleges is the governing board for the 58 public community colleges. Among the community colleges, some are designated as public junior colleges and others as industrial education centers, which focus on technical and vocational education. All the junior colleges have associate degree, diploma, certificate, and transition programs. In fall 2000, these programs enrolled 170,204 students; of these, 38,369 were in associate degree programs (A.A., A.S., A.F.A.). As described below, the associate degree programs are articulated with the four-year institutions and are considered the 2/4 transfer curriculum within the community colleges, although students enrolled in other programs may also be eligible to transfer to four-year institutions.

Enrollment Planning

North Carolina’s population is expected to grow by 13% in the first decade of this century, but the projection for growth in the school-age population is closer to 20%. The state has also placed a priority on increasing the percentage of residents who attend college. To meet the anticipated enrollment demand, the state is undertaking initiatives that include strengthening the community college transfer function.

Academic Policies Affecting Transfer

In 1995 the state legislature enacted a comprehensive statewide articulation policy that had been developed by the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina and the State Board of the Community Colleges. To strengthen the community college– baccalaureate transfer function while ensuring the quality of academic completion for college-level work, the legislation established a general education transfer core curriculum that applies to all associate degree programs in all of the state’s public institutions; each four-year campus may also require additional courses for certain majors. Students who enter community college without having completed the high school courses required for admission to the University of North Carolina must complete at least two courses in a foreign language in their A.A. or A.S. program in addition to the general education transfer core. Transfer students who have completed the core curriculum must still compete for admission to a four-year college and for acceptance into a major, but they are not required to complete work beyond that required of all continuing students or transfer students from four-year institutions.

Data Collection and Accountability

North Carolina maintains comprehensive student tracking systems as well as a systemwide accountability structure, and reports on both the sending and receiving ends of 2/4 transfer. Lateral transfer of community college students to either a public or private four-year college in North Carolina constituted roughly one-third of total transfer activity in fall 2000. Private college transfers (from both two-year and four-year institutions) account for less than 10% of transfer activity into UNC institutions, a proportion that has declined since the early 1990s. According to the UCLA Transfer Assembly Project data, North Carolina’s statewide 2/4 transfer rate in 1996–97 was slightly above 15% (around 5,000 transfers from a base of 32,000 students who completed 12 units).

North Carolina also monitors the academic performance of two-year students after they transfer to UNC and reports the performance data to the sending institutions. This information can be used by the colleges and faculty to evaluate teaching programs, and it also serves as a statewide accountability measure. For the 1995 cohort, the five-year baccalaureate graduation rates for 2/4 transfer students in UNC institutions was 72%, compared with 89% for native UNC students; at the five-year mark, an additional 3% of transfer students and 2% of native students were still enrolled.

The state has experimented with performance-based budgeting systems for both the community colleges and UNC, but a tight state budget has constrained allocations for these initiatives, and the future of performance-based budgeting remains uncertain. Nonetheless, the structure is in place for both two- and four-year institutions to recognize transfer performance with funding. One of 12 performance measures for the community colleges concerns the success of transfer students at the four-year level: the performance standard requires at least 84% of transfers to attain an overall GPA of at least 2.0 after completing one year at the UNC institution. The community college performance report does not include goals for numbers of transfer students. At UNC, one of over 30 performance standards requires the system to maintain or increase transfer rates of students who earn an associate degree.


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