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A group of 19 private colleges in Georgia have struck a deep transfer agreement with the state’s technical college system, guaranteeing admission to any student with a grade-point average of at least 2.5 and an associate of science or applied science from one of the state’s 25 technical colleges.

Four of the private institutions went a step farther with the agreement, which was announced in February. Those colleges -- Brenau University, LaGrange College, Paine College and Reinhardt University -- agreed to waive their general education requirements for students who transfer in from the technical college system with an associate degree in science or, in two cases, in applied science. (Note: This paragraph has been changed to reflect new information.)

Many four-year institutions around the country, including private ones, are working to improve their transfer pathway from community colleges. Statewide groups of private colleges in North Carolina and Tennessee have also developed deep transfer agreements with their counterpart community college systems. Other states, like Hawaii and Maryland, are encouraging "reverse transfer," where transfer students finish associate degrees at four-year institutions.

However, the Georgia Independent College Association’s new transfer agreement is particularly broad, experts said. Stephen Katsinas, director of the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama, called it a “significant step forward for students in the Peach State.”

Beyond the waiving of general education requirements by four institutions, the agreement includes a long list of courses offered by technical colleges that participating colleges have agreed to accept for transfer credit, when students complete them with a grade of C or better.

“Admission is important, but it is the transfer of credit that could be the game changer,” said Mark D’Amico, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Georgia private colleges participating in transfer agreement with the state's technical colleges:

Andrew College
Berry College
Brenau University
Brewton-Parker College
Covenant College
Emmanuel College
Georgia Military College
LaGrange College
Mercer University
Paine College
Piedmont College
Point University
Reinhardt University
Shorter University
Thomas University
Toccoa-Falls College
Truett McConnell College
Wesleyan College
Young Harris College

Six of the association’s 25 members did not sign onto the pact. But Susanna Baxter, the group’s president, said the February announcement was just the beginning.

“We really hope that this agreement can be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what could be,” she said.

For example, Baxter predicted that more of the private colleges would agree to drop general education requirements in exchange for associate degrees.

That move can be controversial, particularly among faculty members who question whether coursework at two-year institutions can adequately substitute for the general education curriculum they teach. Baxter said the transfer agreement faced substantial opposition, particularly the general education piece, which was “not an easy discussion.”

It helped, however, to have several colleges at the table at which transfer students from Georgia technical colleges had been successful. Baxter said the colleges that had “already plowed ahead” made a compelling case to their peers.

Katsinas said the decision by LaGrange and other Georgia colleges can make sense. “Advances in technology require technical workers with higher order learning skills,” he said in an e-mail, “which in turn is breaking down former barriers between general education and technical education related to transfer.”

The private college group is not that odd of a transfer fit with the technical college system. For starters, 43 percent of students who attend member colleges receive Pell Grants. They also serve a large number of adult students, and the majority of the group’s overall enrollment is nonwhite.

A number of academic tracks could be popular with transfer students from technical colleges, Baxter said, including criminal justice, nursing and several of the sciences. For example, a student might want to go on to earn a bachelor degree in criminal justice after first earning a certificate.

The Georgia association first broached the idea of the transfer agreement. While several member institutions had their own “one off” agreements in place with local technical colleges, Baxter said “some were doing a much better job than others.”

The idea also partially had roots in the 2011 creation of Complete College Georgia, which is a joint effort by the technical college system and the University System of Georgia to boost college graduation and retention rates. Georgia is one of many states participating in the campaign led by Complete College America. The state’s governor, Nathan Deal, a Republican, has taken an active role encouraging that and other collaborations between the state’s colleges.

Baxter said the private college group watched the Complete College rollout and said “we have to figure out a way to be a part of this.” The main goal of the transfer agreement is for students to face fewer barriers when they want to continue their education at a private college.

“We want to provide those options when they make sense,” Baxter said. “It was not easy to do, but it was a no-brainer.”

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