Continuum of academic progression partnerships: Curriculum and infrastructure
- Simple articulation. Individual academic institutions provide a clear, current map for students advancing from an associate’s degree program to a BSN – granting school. Articulation agreements address needed pre-requisites and co-requisites as well as nursing courses but alignment of curricula may or may not have taken place. All schools maintain autonomy for admission and progression. Partnering institutions define credits for transfer, and processes for application and acceptance, improving efficiency. Financial aid is managed by each institution independently, and students may begin BSN coursework without access to further funding support. In addition to inefficient use of financial aid, other barriers may remain if not intentionally addressed, including complex admission and transfer mechanisms, residency requirements from the university, co-requisites and other requirements for graduation, and an excessive number of units to obtain the baccalaureate. Partnering schools may reduce redundancy by conducting an intentional evaluation of competencies which are addressed within each curriculum. Students may be encouraged to advance but no formal process links the community college student to university education. Academic institutions face a labor-intensive process of maintaining multiple current articulation agreements which may encourage them to streamline through standardization.
- State or system-wide articulation or transfer agreements. Articulation or transfer is standardized across a region or state, allowing streamlined progression with additional supportive infrastructure. This configuration requires some degree of curricular alignment and not all schools within a region or state may choose to participate. Focused advising becomes increasingly important but no formal program application is generally required beyond that of the individual institutions. Students complete AD coursework in conjunction with defined prerequisites and co-requisites for direct advancement to the BSN. Use of a structured competency assessment such as the Quality and Safety Education for Nursing (QSEN) competencies may be helpful in developing this structure. Standardized articulation or transfer agreements may or may not address financial aid or conjoined application. In some regions students receive preference for admission into the baccalaureate – granting institutions, but they are not within a cohort defined for advancement. Development of broad and well-designed articulation or transfer agreements may result in the programmatic foundations for creation of dual enrollment models.
- Dual admission or co-enrollment. The defining element of this level of partnership is curricular integration with some overlapping coursework between the community colleges and university. In some cases this may be minimal, with students completing two or three baccalaureate-level courses in conjunction with their AD curriculum, and in other cases there may be substantially more integration of curriculum. Early and accurate advising is critical. In most cases, students entering through the community college and seeking a BSN are identified at a specific time in the program. This may be prior to beginning any coursework or at a defined point in the community college curriculum. Even in the most basic form, the community college student is able to declare an intent and take some steps to continue to the baccalaureate. Application and acceptance processes vary across settings, with virtually all programs capacity controlled. One exception is the Minnesota based MANE program, in which all community college students who enter a participating school are automatically dually enrolled with the university. In all other programs, students opting in and accepted to the BSN endpoint are identified as a specific cohort with anticipated direct advancement to the baccalaureate. Course sequencing and overlap vary widely across programs. Program developers have identified a need for increasing coordination as overlap between academic institutions becomes greater. APIN teams and other national education leaders have highlighted opportunities to minimize barriers and improve efficiency, especially in regard to development of clear Memorandums of Understanding between schools, streamlined admissions, and equitable distribution of financial aid. In this model students are eligible for NCLEX after completion of the AD content, and at that juncture may have significant components of the BSN coursework complete. In some programs, licensing at this point is mandatory, in others it is optional.
- Complete curricular integration. Students begin their education at the community college and exit with both an AD and a university-conferred BSN at the completion of the full program, as baccalaureate content is woven throughout the curriculum. In current programs, the BSN endpoint is an option students may select on entry to their AD program. Financial aid is distributed across the student’s entire course of study. The AD is still awarded to assure that both schools are credited with their contribution to each student’s education.
University of Colorado College of Nursing (CON) has developed a notable variation on the dual admission structure. The Integrated Nursing Pathway supports partnerships with community colleges who do not have a nursing program. The program provides tightly integrated co-advising and addresses financial aid concerns. Once accepted, students complete defined pre- and co-requisites at the community college, then attend introductory nursing courses co-taught by community college and CON faculty. They transition to CON for further coursework.