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NCCCS, UNC Sign Nursing and Engineering Articulation Agreements that Start this Fall

RALEIGH—The state’s higher education systems have approved a pair of supplemental articulation agreements that create seamless educational pathways for students pursuing specialized degrees in the high-demand careers of nursing and engineering.

Building upon the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement already in place between the University of North Carolina and N.C. Community College systems, the UNC Board of Governors and State Board of Community Colleges approved the new articulations last month.

The agreements establish uniform requirements for students moving between North Carolina’s public higher education systems that will help them avoid course duplication, shorten degree completion time, and eliminate the need for multiple agreements between institutions. They also help address the needs of both employees and employers by building a pipeline of skilled citizens for promising careers.

“These articulation agreements are the work of dedicated faculty, staff and partner organizations who sought ways to expand educational pathway opportunities for our state’s future nurses and engineers,” N.C. Community College System President Scott Ralls said. “Through these agreements, our institutions are ensuring that students have opportunities not only to transfer to a public university, but to pursue specialized degrees in the most efficient and cost effective way possible.”

While the agreements streamline education pathways, they do not guarantee entrance into rigorous bachelor programs of study. The articulations, which go into effect at the start of the 2015 Fall Semester, are expected to keep costs lower for students by offering more coursework at community colleges.

“These agreements will develop clear, efficient pathways for students to complete their goals in these specialized, high-demand fields,” PCC Vice President of Academic Affairs Tom Gould said. “The continued collaboration between the N.C. Community College System and the University of North Carolina System is producing positive results that will benefit our students and meet the specialized workforce needs of our 21st century economy.”

Locally, Gould says the new articulations will reinforce the already strong educational collaboration between PCC and East Carolina University (ECU).

“PCC and ECU share common objectives to provide students with opportunities in these fields and to meet the current and future labor market needs of the region,” Gould said. “Such strategic articulation agreements will benefit both students and regional economic development.”

The new nursing articulation promotes a more concise transfer pathway, while also responding to the health care industry’s increasing demand that nurses pursue bachelor’s degrees. A 2010 report published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Institute of Medicine recommended increasing the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree to 80 percent by 2020 to meet the health care industry’s evolving demands.

Currently, there are 11 “RN to Bachelor of Science Nursing” programs within the UNC System and 55 community colleges in North Carolina offering associate degree nursing programs. In most cases, the community colleges have bilateral articulation agreements in place with multiple universities, but the lack of a uniform articulation too often results in unnecessary barriers for nurses seeking BSN degrees.

The new agreement between Associate in Engineering and baccalaureate engineering programs allows students to begin engineering studies at a North Carolina community college before transferring into one of the UNC System’s engineering programs. The agreement outlines a pathway that includes an Associate in Engineering Degree designed to meet the prerequisite requirements of those UNC programs.

Industries often struggle to fill engineering positions. Development of the new articulation agreement stemmed from the Building Engineering Pathways grant, which utilizes Golden LEAF Foundation funding to expand the pipeline to four-year engineering degrees. By providing a unified, seamless pathway to an engineering degree, the state’s public higher education systems are increasing students’ opportunities to pursue engineering, while also responding to industry’s workforce needs.

Five of UNC’s 16 constituent universities currently offer Bachelor of Science in Engineering programs. The Associate in Engineering program at community colleges is a specialized college transfer degree for engineering majors and requires higher-level math courses, along with other general education and pre-major courses designed to prepare students to enter universities as juniors.