North Carolina’s Transfer Context

NCICU’s independent colleges have a history since the 1960s of collaborating with NCCCS and local community colleges to strengthen transfer access to the liberal arts and to provide transfer programs in locations across the state. In the mid-1990s, NCICU signed a statewide articulation agreement with NCCCS that commits its 30 signatory institutions to accept the general education credits completed by students from any of the 58 community colleges in the state as fulfilling their own general education requirements.

The Independent Transfer Pathways in North Carolina Project between NCICU, NCCCS, and CIC builds on that first step toward better alignment by launching statewide transfer pathways in sociology and psychology, two high-enrollment liberal arts disciplines, that enable transfer students to enter independent colleges with junior status.

Group of diverse individuals in mid conversation sitting in chairs
Transfer is an important part of the fabric of North Carolina’s higher education system and attainment goal.
Transfer is an important part of the fabric of North Carolina’s higher education system and attainment goal. In 2019, the state of North Carolina adopted one of the most ambitious goals in the nation to close the educational attainment gap in the state—to ensure that two million North Carolinians aged 25–44 have an industry-valued credential or postsecondary degree by 2030. Named myFutureNC, this initiative passed in the General Assembly with bipartisan support and a signature from the governor. Additional information about myFutureNC and the statewide attainment goal is available at Building effective pathways from community college enrollment to graduation with a baccalaureate degree is vital for achieving this educational goal, as community colleges play a critical role in successfully engaging low-income students, adults, and students of color in the education-to-workforce pipeline.

A research team at UNC Charlotte has been studying community college transfer student experiences in North Carolina including transfers to independent colleges and universities.4 The research questions focused on understanding how students experienced the transfer process (including transfer decisions, information, resources, and advising) and how students’ social identities informed their transfer journeys. Between April 2021 and July 2022, the research team conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with a total of 103 students.

  1. “North Carolina Transfer Student Voices: A Pilot Study Report,” UNC Charlotte Transfer Research Project. July 2021.
    Accessed October 6, 2023.
Findings from that comprehensive, longitudinal statewide study are relevant to understanding the transfer ecosystem in North Carolina. The system is complicated, and students are navigating choices about majors and institutions that have serious consequences when it comes to credit mobility. Students are collecting information in varied and unpredictable ways, navigating the process independently without leveraging the transfer resources and resources available to them. Just over half (55 percent) of transfer intending students surveyed saw a transfer advisor, and about two-thirds (68 percent) had a transfer plan by the end of the first year at a community college.

Some findings from the study speak directly to the experience of students transferring from North Carolina community colleges to independent colleges and universities.

  • The roles of faculty members and department/program heads were pronounced for some post-transfer students at independent colleges and universities who made transfer decisions based on faculty recommendations.
  • Many participants’ experiences across sectors were positive, but most notably some post-transfer participants who enrolled at independent colleges and universities described seamless transitions due to a clear direction toward a particular institution while attending the community college.
  • Some NCICU transfer students described a supportive and “welcoming” environment as evidenced by advisors who “walked them through step-by-step,” and simplified the process for them. This comment speaks directly to the importance of institutional agents at destinations who provide guidance through the point of transition.
  • Finally, the primary recommendation emerging from the study is that transfer in North Carolina needs to be more uniform and more transparent.

The study highlights the Independent Transfer Pathways Project as a model for creating more uniform pathways and focusing on advising and policy development for financial aid to nontraditional students.