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Action Plan Recommendation 3

Convene a stakeholder group, comprised of representatives from two- and four-year South Carolina institutions, to review and address transfer articulation resources and needs, to include:

  • Evaluating and assessing current transfer and articulation platforms and portals, including SC TRAC, in order to meet the needs of transfer students.

  • Developing a matrix to standardize courses for equivalent, transferable, degree-benefiting credit.

  • Developing a process for using common general education learning outcomes to supersede course equivalencies.

  • Establishing common standards for evaluating and awarding credit consistently and with maximum applicability to degrees.

  • Negotiating a statewide articulation among the SC Technical College System (SCTCS), four-year public institutions, and participating institutions of the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (SCICU)to recognize the Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees as fulfilling baccalaureate general education requirements.

In South Carolina, systemic and long-standing barriers to effective transfer practices reflect nationwide transfer challenges, including inconsistent, unclear, or absent course equivalencies, institutional inflexibility on general education requirements, and a lack of block transfer of coursework. Past steps to improve transfer pathways in South Carolina include the SC TRAC and the 2021–22 Appropriations Proviso 117.152[1]. SC TRAC is intended as a one-stop shop, providing transfer students, administrators, and advisors/faculty with easy access to information they need for college transfer. However, many aspects of the SC TRAC are outdated, including the list of Universally Transferable Courses in SC (often referred to as the “list of 86”), Transfer Agreements, institutional logos, contact information, and 

others. For example, regarding the “list of 86,” a recent audit across six institutions revealed that only 31 of the 86 courses could be coded as direct equivalents.

Proviso 117.152 mandates that students earning an A.A. or an A.S. from a public two-year institution of higher learning in South Carolina shall receive a minimum of 60 transfer credit hours to a public four-year institution. However, despite the 60-hour credit guarantee, many of those credits will not apply to a student’s general education or degree program. In a recent survey of transfer students, almost 71 percent of transfer student respondents reported some of the courses from their previous institution did not count towards their new major or degree program; 40 percent of respondents indicated that they had to retake three or more courses after transferring (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Many institutions across the state are engaged in pathway refinement, such as the use of meta majors, guided pathways, direct transfer pathways, and curriculum maps. Approaches, however, vary across the state and largely localized between a technical college and their neighboring college or university. The SCTCS has 20 system-wide transfer agreements among 18 partner institutions. In all other cases, SCTCS transfer efforts are localized, resulting in dozens if not hundreds of articulation agreements between two-year and four-year institutions based on individual degree programs.

Institutions follow state policy by publishing their policies, the statewide policy, and transfer blocks in their bulletins/catalogs, but adherence to the spirit of policies and the acceptance of transfer credit varies by institution, because there is little state guidance for the award of credit transfer. Policies for accepting credit earned through dual enrollment, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, military, prior learning assessments, etc. also vary by institution and can be restrictive.

Finally, while the SCTCS utilizes common course numbering, the state’s four-year institutions (public and private) do not have common course numbering, learning outcomes, or general education requirements.

The task force proposed that a stakeholder group be tasked with reducing these barriers in collaboration with the CHE and as supported by the State of South Carolina. Comprising representatives of public and participating independent institutions, this group should determine needs and means for the improvement or replacement of the existing SC TRAC system; reconstruct or replace a core list of commonly articulated courses and/or general education learning outcomes; ensure maximal applicability of transfer credits to general education and degree requirements, and establish recognition of the A.A. or A.S. degrees as satisfying baccalaureate general education requirements.

Higher Education Institution Action: Public and participating independent institutions should commit to active contribution to and cooperation with the resulting transfer information resources.

Legislative Action: Possible actions could include a budget request to fund and implement new or revised state resources, and/or legislation to recognize the A.A. and A.S. degrees as satisfying public and participating independent institutions’ general baccalaureate education requirements. Additional legislative action could be needed to amend or suspend current state legislation that prevents independent colleges and universities from participating in existing resources due to state funding source.

Implementation Timeline: The stakeholder group should be convened immediately to begin the review of existing resources and determine recommended courses of development.


South Carolina Commission on Higher Education

1122 Lady St. Suite 400

Columbia, SC 29201