Volume 27, No. 2: Career Pathways—Gateway to the Future

Articulation Strategies for Four-Year Pathway Development: Best Practices from the Wisconsin Technical College System

Jaime Spaciel, Career Pathways Manager, Gateway Technical College, Kenosha, WI; Cara J. Bowman, Career Pathways Coordinator, Waukesha County Technicial College, Waukesha, WI

“Vertical transfer from community college to four-year institutions therefore offers a critical avenue for upward mobility for many underserved students, including low-income, first generation, and racial/ethnic minority students, all of whom are disproportionally represented at community colleges.” What We Know About Transfer, Community College Research Center, January 2016

The integration of four-year articulation opportunities into career pathway systems is essential to the advancement of the students and communities we serve. Providing a clear transition to this next step in a pathway helps students understand the value of continuing their education to ensure future stability and success. While the benefits are clear, developing articulation agreements with four-year colleges and universities can often be a confusing and somewhat daunting task. When your college is ready to begin this work, here are some key strategies to consider when establishing effective articulation agreements:

  • Faculty engagement is critical. Content experts from both institutions must collaborate to validate content alignment and equivalencies.

  • A clear 1:1 ratio should be distinguished between AAS and BS degrees.

  • All admission requirements must be documented.

  • Clearly delineate program credits versus general education credits versus elective credits.

  • Differentiate courses that DO NOT transfer to the receiving institution.

  • Identify the number of remaining courses a student will need to complete at the receiving institution.

  • Provide each institution’s transfer URL for easy access to information.

The best way to ensure that all desired requirements are addressed is to develop a standard boilerplate template to use as a guide. While the receiving institution may require its format to be used, having a set of standards for reference will guarantee that the components deemed critical by your college are included. Elements to consider incorporating include:

  • Outline of coursework and degree requirements

  • Admission requirements and advising guidelines

  • Marketing regulations, including use of each college’s name and logo

  • Maintenance of regional accreditation and, where applicable, program-specific accreditation

  • Periodic review cycle (If possible, it is best to align this timeframe with your program’s curriculum review process.)

  • Cancellation timeframe requirements

Your work does not end with formalization of the agreements. Maintaining strong relationships with your four-year partners and communicating transfer opportunities to stakeholders is critical to the success of the agreements. Listed below are a few strategies that will help you develop effective articulation partnerships:

  • Create a brand to clearly identify the partnership (logos, tag words, etc.).

  • Host a signing day with local media coverage and share on social media.

  • Develop customized transfer maps highlighting each agreement.

  • Provide visibility on your website’s transfer page.

  • Highlight articulation opportunities on career pathway maps.

  • Host transfer fairs.

  • Coordinate articulation forums—half-day events where faculty members, administrators, and student services personnel from both institutions can collaborate to review curriculum, discuss agreement modifications, and so on.

To view examples of these best practices, please visit the transfer pages at our colleges' websites:

For more information, contact the authors at cbowman@wctc.edu and spacielj@gtc.edu.