With a whopping 2600 unique and separate campus articulation agreements in place across the Commonwealth, students and their academic advisors can find it difficult, “if not impossible” to navigate the transfer system, DHE Senior Deputy Commissioner for Academic Affairs Carlos Santiago told the Board of Higher Education on Tuesday.
The good news for students, as well as sending and receiving institutions, is that Massachusetts is now on the way to replacing a patchwork system of individual transfer requirements with an integrated system that will allow for seamless transfer, particular from community colleges to state university and UMass campuses, while also promoting the Vision Project “Big Three” goals aimed at boosting college completion rates, Santiago said.
The BHE heard a detailed update on Phase One of the work to map course equivalencies for 6,000 foundational courses in six disciplines: Biology, Chemistry, Economics, History, Political Science, and Psychology. Complete transfer pathway maps are slated to be completed this spring. Phase Two work on ten more disciplines—Business, Criminal Justice, Communications and Media Studies, Computer Science, Early Childhood Education, English, Liberal Arts, Mathematics, Sociology and STEM foundations—is slated to be completed by the end of 2016, and together the two phases will capture 70 percent of transfer students’ majors. The Department of Higher Education is building a new web-based interface, backed by a course-to-course equivalency database, that will allow transfer students to map their route to a bachelor's degree with fewer detours, lost credits and unexpected costs.
“This use of technology to help facilitate system integration is brilliant,” said Fernando Reimers, BHE member and professor of International Education and Director of Global Education and International Education Policy at Harvard University. “This gives us a platform to help not only students but also high school guidance counselors. And it makes it all very transparent for education leaders.”
Santiago added that the new system will also be available for use as an advising tool, and to help academic planning teams design programs based on a full slate of state resources. Given the cooperation and involvement of campus faculty in designing the system, Santiago predicted that Massachusetts will be able to complete work on its transfer pathways without the need of a legislative mandate.
“We've been lagging behind other states in this work," Santiago said, “but we think we're caught up.”