Role of North Carolina’s Comprehensive Articulation Agreement (CAA) on Excess Credits

Students in a post doctoral class.

North Carolina’s 2014 revision of the statewide articulation agreement led to key policy changes to promote transfer between North Carolina’s 58 public community colleges and 16 public four-year institutions. One of the primary changes to the policy is that students who transferred under the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement (CAA) after earning either an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree were guaranteed the transfer of at least 60 credits and junior-level status at a UNC System school. The design of this policy is intended to reduce time-to-degree and should improve the efficiency of transfer, including improving credit loss and the accumulation of excess credits. Our study is designed to understand how the implementation of the CAA impacted excess-credit-earning behaviors of transfer students under the new policy compared to those who transferred before the policy.

We examined whether or not the policy changed the number of credits students earned exceeded 120 credits (typical number for Bachelor’s degree) or 140 credits (the number of credits at which the UNC System imposes a tuition surcharge). We found the policy had no effect on reducing the number of credits earned past 120. However, we did find the policy reduced the number of students who earned credits beyond 140 hours. This suggests that while the policy is helping to reduce excess credits, it is not alleviating the problem. We anticipate that the results may change once the policy has been in effect for longer and more students have had the opportunity to transfer under the policy.

Our findings suggest that the CAA may have positive effects on reducing excess credits earned and is creating greater efficiency for those who transfer. More research, with additional years of post-policy data, is needed to fully understand this trend.

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