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Evolving Statewide Transfer Policies: Persistent Efforts in Tension with Workforce Development among Massachusetts Community Colleges
Education Policy Analysis Archives (2014)
  • Daniel Torre, Jr.
  • Ryan S. Wells, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Since their inception, community colleges have included the transfer function as a central mission. However, arguments have been made contending that community colleges have systematically diverted students toward occupational education. In the 21st century, community colleges continue to contend with multiple missions and identities, especially when viewed from a workforce-development perspective stressing short-term employability as the primary objective. The two-fold purpose of this study focuses on the academic transfer mission of community colleges in tension with the vocational-occupational mission. We apply document and thematic analysis to identify the elements of formal transfer and articulation policies in the United States leading into the 21st century. Using these results as a framework for comparison, we draw on Massachusetts as a case study to explore how transfer and articulation policies have resembled and/or diverged from the policy elements we isolate. Findings address transfer policy in the context of competing community college missions, both nationally and within Massachusetts. Implications for future policy formation point to the need for bridging the tension between transfer and occupational missions through the adoption of a) policies advocating explicit transfer opportunities for community college students enrolled in occupational programs, b) the use of stackable credentials to support community college students initially pursuing technical preparation for employment on the way towards subsequent academic advancement, and c) state-specific analysis of transfer policies, applying a framework similar to the one used in this study, to better understand how particular strengths and limitations influence policy reform within the context of state determined higher education priorities.

  • community colleges,
  • transfer,
  • articulation policy,
  • occupational education,
  • document analysis,
  • public higher education,
  • Massachusetts
Publication Date
April 21, 2014
Publisher Statement
de la Torre, D. & Wells, R.S. (2014). Evolving statewide transfer policies: Persistent efforts in tension with workforce development among Massachusetts community colleges. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22 (20).
Citation Information
Daniel Torre and Ryan S. Wells. "Evolving Statewide Transfer Policies: Persistent Efforts in Tension with Workforce Development among Massachusetts Community Colleges" Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 22 Iss. 20 (2014)
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