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June 25, 2009

Current appropriation bill has articulation strings attached

A bill introduced June 15 in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would provide a state appropriation of $160.49 million and allocate $10.244 million in federal stimulus funding to Pitt. However, as HB1711 currently reads, the money comes with strings attached. The funds are contingent upon Pitt entering into articulation agreements with community colleges and State System of Higher Education institutions. Separate House appropriations bills for fellow state-related schools Temple, Lincoln and Penn State universities also contain the provision.

State legislation adopted in 2006 required Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges and 14 State System of Higher Education schools to adopt equivalency standards that would enable students to easily transfer credits among any of the participating institutions. However, other institutions were not required to join, but could participate voluntarily in the statewide transfer system.

In addition to the 28 required institutions, state-related Lincoln University, the Pennsylvania College of Technology (affiliated with Penn State) and private Lackawanna College, Seton Hill University and St. Francis University participate in the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center (PA TRAC) program.

Currently, students can transfer as many as 30 credits from the courses listed on PA TRAC’s “transfer credit framework” to any of the participating institutions and have the credits count toward graduation.

Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations Paul A. Supowitz told the University Times last week that the bill remains “in the negotiation stages” and it was too soon to say whether the articulation provision would remain when Pitt’s appropriation is finalized.

The University continues to oppose mandated articulation agreements, as it did in 2006 when the statewide credit transfer system was developed. (See March 30, 2006, University Times.)

Vice Provost for Graduate and Undergraduate Studies Patricia E. Beeson said, “We are committed to ensuring the success of all students we accept, and we believe the articulation agreements that we have developed, and continue to develop, with individual institutions are the best way to ensure the success of students transferring from these institutions.”

Beeson said Pitt’s concerns remain the same as those expressed to legislators in 2006. “We believe our current system of institution-to-institution, program-specific articulation agreements is preferred to the statewide system we are being asked to join; it allows us to provide appropriate guidance to transferring students and allows us to maintain the academic standards that form the basis of a Pitt degree. Our concern is that the one-size-fits-all system we are being asked to join does not recognize difference across institutions or difference across majors within an institution.It also would require the University of Pittsburgh faculty to cede control over a significant portion of our degree to a statewide committee that would have the final say in which courses we must accept as meeting specific degree requirements — a committee with representation from more than 30 institutions, and on which the University would have only one vote.We are concerned that this could limit our ability to ensure that students we accept for transfer are in a position to succeed once they arrive at Pitt.”

The University has articulation agreements with community colleges in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Westmoreland counties and the Harrisburg Area Community College. Pitt programs have articulation agreements with a number of colleges including several community colleges and state system universities. A complete list of Pitt’s articulation agreements is available at

“In the case of students who transfer to one of our campuses, we make every effort to recognize their prior work and to bring them in under conditions that will maximize the likelihood and the speed of their graduation,” Beeson said.

“For many years we have had articulation agreements with the institutions that send us transfer applicants, and we have kept the terms of these articulation agreements on our web site so that prospective students can use them as they plan their course of study.”

— Kimberly K. Barlow

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