Increasingly, college students attend more than one institution in the pursuit of a degree. While the most common journey is from a community college to a senior or "four-year" college or university, students transfer also from community college to community college and from four-year to four-year institutions. In recent years, Maryland has become a national leader in adopting State policies to facilitate transfer among its public colleges and universities.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission, the segments of higher education, and individual colleges and universities have begun adapting to a new paradigm. No longer is policy in Maryland based on the assumption that a student enrolling at one campus will graduate from that same campus two or four years later, as the following data show. Instead, policies have been adopted since 1990, based on the expectation that students may move from one higher education institution to another and may attend three or four institutions before earning a degree. Furthermore, policy in Maryland has embraced the concept of a seamless educational experience from high school to community college to senior college or university.

The reality giving impetus to this paradigm shift has included the following data:

These and similar trends continue. According to projections by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, total headcount enrollment in public colleges and universities will increase by 34,000 by 2005, and two-thirds of that growth will be at community colleges.

A Statewide Effort

Since 1990, the Maryland education community has focused on removing barriers to a seamless educational experience for Maryland’s citizens, regardless of where they enter the educational system. The goal has been to facilitate a smooth progress from public schools and private career schools to undergraduate collegiate study to graduate schools. Some of the notable benchmarks have been:

1998 University of Maryland System develops ARTSYS--an automated articulation information system
July 1990 MHEC appoints the Student Transfer Advisory Committee to advise the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
August 1992 MHEC publishes the first Student Guide to Transfer, a guide to articulation and transfer provided to 40,000 first-time freshmen in Maryland’s community colleges.
Spring 1993 The University of Maryland System (UMS) convenes the first statewide discipline-based groups to discuss issues in transfer in specific disciplines.
September 1993 The UMS Office of Articulation convenes the Chief Academic Officers’ Group. This Group brings together the academic leadership of all the public colleges and universities.
January 1994 All public college and university presidents meet to discuss articulation and transfer issues.
Fall 1994 MHEC proposes a reform of general education requirements for public institutions.
January 1995 The Chief Academic Officers’ Group proposes statewide general education requirements to apply to all public postsecondary institutions.
March 1995 Maryland Higher Education Commission adopts the general education reform.
December 1996 The Chief Academic Officers’ Group adopts General Education Implementation Guiding Principles.
February 1997 MHEC approves for implementation the Policy for the Articulation and Transfer of Credits between Degree-granting Institutions and Maryland Secondary Schools and Non-Degree-granting Institutions.

Maryland’s Articulation and Transfer System

The elements of Maryland’s articulation and transfer system are many. Some of these were the result of actions of the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Others were initiated and developed by the University of Maryland System. Finally, other policies are the result of a dialogue among the Chief Academic Officers (CAOs) of all the public colleges and universities meeting regularly to focus on issues of articulation and transfer.


  • The Student Transfer Advisory Committee, a statewide inter-segmental committee to focus on issues of articulation and transfer
  • The Office of Articulation of the University of Maryland System
  • A transfer coordinator on every public campus, required by State regulation
  • A common set of general education requirements for all public community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities which provides the basis for a State law requiring the transferability of general education credits among public institutions
  • A statewide agreement on the definition of general education courses and the several areas of distribution
  • Regular meetings of the chief academic officers of all public colleges and universities to discuss articulation and transfer issues and develop policy recommendations
  • Statewide discipline-based faculty groups to achieve consensus on the content of introductory general education courses and on the lower-division requirements for academic majors
  • ARTSYS, an electronic data information system developed by the University of Maryland System, which allows students and advisors at participating colleges and universities (both public and independent) to determine the transferability of courses to all other participating institutions
  • An electronic transcript transfer process made possible by the Electronic Transcript Transmission System
  • An annual publication for students, the Student Guide to Transfer Among Maryland Colleges and Universities
  • Policy for Articulation and Transfer of Credits between Degree-granting Institutions and Maryland Secondary Schools and Non-Degree-granting Institutions
  • A Strategic Plan for Articulation and Transfer

The Student Transfer Advisory Committee

In 1990, the Maryland Higher Education Commission created the Student Transfer Advisory Committee to continuously review the State’s transfer policies and to make recommendations on their effectiveness. Working in conjunction with the University of Maryland System’s Office of Articulation and the segments of postsecondary education, the Student Transfer Advisory Committee has been instrumental in the adoption of a number of policies regarding transfer. The Committee is composed of 11 members representing the segments of postsecondary education and the Maryland State Department of Education.

Office of Articulation, University of Maryland System

The primary goal of the UMS Office of Articulation is to facilitate the movement of students between and among UMS institutions, community colleges and other educational segments. Specifically it improves the efficiency of transfer of students by enhancing the quality of articulation services and coordination among and between higher education segments. The following describes the key objectives and activities of the Office:

General Education Requirements for Public Institutions

An intersegmental group of CAOs of all the public colleges and universities met throughout 1994 to discuss issues related to general education and transfer. The group, which still meets, is composed of the provosts, vice-presidents of academic affairs, and deans of instruction of all public colleges and universities.

The cooperation of the CAOs from all the public institutions was unprecedented. They were able to reach consensus on a general education curriculum and on policies to govern the transfer of general education courses among the public institutions. On January 13, 1995, the Segmental Advisory Committee (the chief executives of all the segments of higher education) reviewed the CAOs proposal and endorsed it.

At its meeting on January 25, 1995, the Education Policy Committee of the Maryland Higher Education Commission heard testimony from members of the Intersegmental Group of CAOs, the University of Maryland System, and the Faculty Advisory Council in support of the CAOs' recommendations. The Education Policy Committee forwarded these recommendations to the Commission, which adopted this reform in March, 1995, with an implementation date of fall 1996 semester.

Maryland’s general education regulations, adopted by the Maryland Higher Education Commission in 1995, break new ground in a number of ways:

  1. by improving transfer across all public colleges and universities,
  2. by providing transfer options regardless of the degree program,
  3. by providing for the transfer of innovative courses, such as those on information literacy, and courses such as foreign language,
  4. by providing a structured way for institutions to settle disagreements regarding transfer credit and general education courses, and
  5. by further developing a student appeal process established by earlier transfer policy.

First, the regulations recognize that students transfer not only from two- to four-year institutions but from four- to four-year and from four-year to two-year colleges as well. These new regulations require the transferability of general education courses, designated by the sending institutions according to specified guidelines, from any two- or four-year public college or university. Second, the regulations provide for the transfer of students in the Associate of Applied Science degree programs by requiring that their general education courses come from the same course list as that for students enrolled in Associate of Arts/Science degree programs. Third, the regulations provide for the transferability of up to eight semester hours of courses deemed interdisciplinary and emerging issues and for the transfer of languages to public postsecondary institutions that do not include such courses within their curricular offerings.

The basic principles and policies adopted by the Commission were the following:


  1. Effective transfer of general education should be based on mutual respect among institutions and recognition of the autonomy and integrity of each institution. Each institution designs a General Education Program that meets its unique needs, but which also meets common standards for general education statewide.
  2. The General Education Program of each public institution transfers without further review or approval by receiving institutions and without the need for a course-by-course match. The general education guidelines clearly state that courses which are defined as general education by one institution will transfer as meeting general education requirements even if the receiving institution does not have that specific course or has not designated that course as general education.


  1. The Associate of Arts (AA) and the Associate of Sciences (AS) require a minimum of 30 credits and a maximum of 36 credits of general education.
  2. A student transferring to a public four-year institution who has completed the agreed upon 30-36 lower-division credits may be required to take no more than an additional 10 - 16 general education credits for the Bachelor of Arts (BA) or the Bachelor of Sciences (BS) degrees.
  3. A student who has taken any part of the agreed upon 30-36 lower-division general education credits at a public college or university shall receive lower-division general education credits for those courses successfully completed at any public institution to which that student transfers.
  4. All institutions use common definitions and guidelines in determining which courses may be offered for general education credits.
  5. All general education programs include the following minimum distribution of courses:

Minimum Requirement

Arts and Humanities
(Including courses from two disciplines)
6 credits
English Composition 3 credits
Social and Behavioral Sciences
(Including courses from two disciplines)
6 credits
Mathematics 3 credits
Biological and Physical Sciences
(Including at least one laboratory course)
6 credits
Interdisciplinary and Emerging Issues
up to a maximum of 8 credits

Each public college and university has the autonomy to meet its unique needs and mission in designing a general education program, but that program must conform to the common definitions and standards set forth in state regulations. For example, general education courses must reflect current scholarship in a discipline and provide reference to theoretical frameworks and methods of inquiry appropriate to its academic discipline. Also, among other requirements, applications courses must include theoretical components if they are to be included as meeting general education requirements. Definitions for each of the five required areas of distribution were also agreed upon and incorporated in state regulations.

In implementing this reform of general education, Maryland’s colleges have been challenged to develop innovative ways to present on transcripts the courses for which general education credit has been granted. Expanded in fall 1996, transcripts are being transferred electronically between most Maryland colleges and universities with additional general education information. A software program developed by the University of Maryland Office of Articulation, ARTSYS, reviews the general education credits granted by sending institutions provides course equivalency, general education information for the receiving institutions, and an evaluation of the transcript according to a designated major. Categories of general education are also shown on the electronic transcript.

Statewide Discipline-based Faculty Groups

Because it is essential that all members of the higher education community be fully informed of the relevant State and institutional transfer policies, and arrive at statewide agreements on the implementation of those policies, regular meetings of discipline-based groups of faculty members and administrators from community colleges and four-year institutions were initially convened by the University of Maryland System. The Maryland Higher Education Commission and the Intersegmental Group of CAOs are currently expanding and continuing the faculty discipline meetings. These groups also participate in the development of recommended transfer programs.

The discipline-based groups conduct an ongoing review of the lower-level general education requirements in their respective disciplines and develop statewide lower-division requirements for academic programs where appropriate. The goal is that all students planning to transfer and having selected a major will have reliable, accurate, and current information available to them concerning graduation requirements and the transfer of credit in their chosen program.

Campus Transfer Coordinators

There is a designated transfer coordinator at each Maryland public two- and four-year college and university. The transfer coordinator is the person students, faculty, and administrators consult regarding interpretation of transfer policies.

Transfer coordinators function as resources for transfer students at either the sending or receiving institution, answering questions regarding the transferability of courses and programs. Coordinators also work with transfer counselors and academic advisors to assist students in selecting courses which are transferable. In addition, the coordinators assist transfer students who believe they have not been treated fairly in the application of the policies and procedures concerning transfer adopted by the Maryland Higher Education Commission or a receiving institution. This function includes advising students who wish to appeal a decision regarding the evaluation of transfer credit. The name and phone number of the transfer coordinator at each campus is listed in the Student Guide to Transfer published by the MHEC.


One of the fastest growing segments of the student population is "transfer students", particularly those students who begin college at a two-year institution. In order for this group to be adequately served in the baccalaureate institutions, their special needs must be identified and provided for in the planning process.

A critical need for this group of students is the ability to plan their program of study through the baccalaureate degree upon their initial enrollment in the two-year institution. Historically, this has been accommodated through the use of "articulation agreements" which were often out of date and not responsive to the curriculum changes occurring in either the two-year or four-year institution.

In the fall of 1988, the UMS Director of Information Technology and the UMS Director of Articulation called together a group of UMS transfer coordinators to discuss the future of articulation in Maryland. With the merger of the State Universities and Colleges and the University of Maryland System, it was imperative that a more responsive system of articulation be developed. A computerized system of articulation was the result of these discussions.

Within the academic year, all 11 UMS institutions, 17 Maryland community colleges and 3 Northern Virginia community colleges had ARTSYS installed at their campuses. The University of Maryland System Administration then made ARTSYS available to Morgan State University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Hood College, The Johns Hopkins University School of Continuing Studies, Villa Julie College, Western Maryland College, and Washington College. In addition, the College of Notre Dame joined the other participants during the 1996-97 academic year. This unique and innovative system provides the students with the ability to determine the transferability of every community college course. Additionally, students at community colleges may determine courses at the community college that meet the requirements of the first two years of each baccalaureate program. ARTSYS permits the student to match his/her transcript against the program requirements for an instantaneous assessment of status upon transfer. In order to expand access to ARTSYS, the UMS will make it available on the World Wide Web by June, 1997.

Electronic Transcripts

Research has determined that the average cost for the production of a single paper transcript ranges from $5.00 to $11.00. The production of paper transcripts has always been a labor intensive, costly service provided to the student population. Often the costs were offset or reduced by the inclusion of a per unit transcript fee levied on the students. The institution receiving the transcript incurs even greater costs in the evaluation, data entering, and error correction of mis-keyed entries.

In the summer of 1990, the UMS Director of Systems Engineering and the Associate Director of Articulation brought together a group of community college and UMS transfer coordinators and registrars to form an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) development and pilot project group. By fall 1990, the first pilot project involving Anne Arundel Community College,

Prince George’s Community College, Salisbury State University, the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the University of Maryland College Park was underway. By spring 1991, the Electronic Transcript Transmission System (ET) was ready for implementation statewide. At present, all 11 UMS degree-granting institutions, 12 Maryland community colleges, Morgan State University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, The Johns Hopkins University School of Continuing Studies, and Villa Julie College are using the system. The first pilot project with the secondary schools was successfully implemented during the spring of 1996. In conjunction with this project, the University of Maryland System has developed an electronic common application for admission on the World Wide Web which will be fully implemented by June, 1997.

The core of the ET is a central repository. Transcripts are electronically transmitted to the repository by the sending institutions, and electronically retrieved by the receiving institutions. Sending institutions receive confirmation upon acceptance of a transcript by the central repository. The receiving institutions establish connectivity to the central repository on their own timetable, and transcripts are downloaded to them. If the receiving institution has ARTSYS resident on its PC, the transcripts are evaluated according to previously determined course equivalencies and recommended transfer programs in place. Transcript evaluation may take a faculty or staff member hours to accomplish and it is done in seconds by using ARTSYS and ET. Transcripts can then be uploaded to the mainframe student database.

The University of Maryland System maintains the technology for electronic transcript transmission which has been installed across the state at the UMS institutions and Maryland

community colleges. More than 40,000 transcripts were electronically sent and received

during 1996 by the 56 participating secondary and postsecondary institutions in Maryland. Costs have been reduced from $4.00 a transcript to 1/300 of a cent per transcript. Transmission delays have been reduced from one to two weeks to minutes. Evaluation times have been reduced from days to seconds.

Student Guide to Transfer

In order to assure a successful transfer of credits among the institutions of Maryland, transfer students need and deserve detailed and accurate information, but they often lack direction as to where to obtain it. The purpose of Maryland’s Student Guide to Transfer is to provide students with basic and essential information about the process of transferring, and to point them to resources (ARTSYS, campus transfer coordinators) where they can find the detailed information they need. This applies to students transferring not only from two-year to four-year institutions, but from any college/university to another in Maryland.

The Guide assists students in determining the appropriate process, the elements of a college degree, the principles of student transfer in Maryland, appropriate uses of ARTSYS, what a transfer coordinator can do for students, and a transfer student’s rights and responsibilities. The Guide also contains brief answers to fifteen most commonly asked questions concerning the transfer process. The Maryland Higher Education Commission prints and distributes 40,000 copies of the Guide annually.

Strategic Plan for Articulation and Transfer

One of the Student Transfer Advisory Committee's responsibilities is to "review transfer issues and recommend policies as needed." It was in fulfillment of that responsibility that the Committee developed a Strategic Plan for Articulation and Transfer in June 1995 and presented it to the Maryland Higher Education Commission in fall 1995.

The Plan provides an introduction to the major demographic factors affecting transfer and the changes in technology, workforce, and K through 12 education issues that influence articulation. The Plan then addresses transfer issues related to general education, program articulation, advising, creation of a transfer student data system, and identifies the elements of a strategic plan. Finally, the plan provides actions required for its implementation. The six goals of the Plan are:

Goal 1. An Electronic Articulation Technology should be accessible to all students and staff in Maryland public colleges and universities and participating independent institutions by Fall 1997.

Goal 2. The revised student transfer policies will become effective as statutory regulations in Fall 1996. Therefore, implementation procedures for the new general education regulations should be in place by Spring 1996.

Goal 3: All members of the higher education community should be fully informed of relevant State and institutional transfer policies.

Goal 4: Transfer students should not lose credit in their major program if they plan for that major at the sending institution, and if they stay in their chosen major at the selected receiving institution, because of fully articulated transfer programs.

Curricular changes should be reviewed periodically to determine their effect on transfer.

(A) All institutions should be fully informed of and allowed to comment on curricular changes at other institutions which will affect the transfer of their students before those changes take effect.

(B) Proposed changes in program requirements at public receiving institutions should be reviewed regularly to determine their effect on transfer students.

Goal 5: All students who are considering transfer from a public sending institution to a public receiving institution, or who have already transferred, should have reliable, accurate, and current information available to them concerning program requirements, graduation requirements, and the transfer of credits.

Goal 6: There should be a Transfer Student Data System which will provide factual information on the nature and the success of the transfer process among Maryland's public institutions.

A few of the actions identified in the Plan as required to achieve these goals include the following:

These goals and the action items in the Plan will guide the work of the Student Transfer Advisory Committee during the next few years.

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