Chris Gray, Ph.D.

Founding President, Erie County Community College

Earlier this month, something pretty exciting happened. EC3 signed another articulation agreement providing one more pathway for our students on their educational journeys. We are quite proud of all of the articulation agreements and partnerships we have created, are creating and will continue to create. Check out our impressive list here.

The latest agreement is with Northern Pennsylvania Regional College (NPRC). What this means is that EC3 courses and NPRC have equivalency beginning with the Spring 2024 term. The formalized agreement takes effect with the Fall 2024 semester, but what a fantastic step our two institutions have taken together!

We have forged a partnership with NPRC, and it’s one that stands to benefit our current students and those who are headed our way someday. The key word in this agreement is “partnership,” which is key to appreciating the significance of what our two institutions have achieved. A friend of mine once told me that, legally speaking, partnerships are incredibly difficult, and the best and strongest take time both to create and to maintain. Partnerships are challenging because they rely on both parties coming together and subordinating their individual goals for the good of the partnership. Good partnerships, moreover, arise when the value of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That’s what we’ve achieved.

First and foremost, all strong partnerships are built on a foundation of trust, communication, and mutual respect. We have that here; NPRC and EC3 came together with the shared aim of creating a way for our students to transfer seamlessly between institutions. I’ve talked about articulation agreements before, but here’s a brief refresher: College courses are articulated when they are evaluated to determine equivalency between institutions. What does that mean? It means, simply, that we agree that our course at EC3 is substantially similar to the same course at NPRC. Think of it as a translation guide if you will. Course A at EC3 equals Course B at NPRC. So, a student taking a class at EC3 can depend on that course counting at NPRC and vice versa. Intro to Psychology, for example, would count the same at either institution; a student transferring from one school to the other would not need to repeat the course if s/he passed the course at the institution of origin. This removes a lot of stress and confusion from a process that is already foreign and confusing to many students.

Agreements like this are pivotal for community colleges because not all of our students are workforce bound after they leave us. Plenty of them, in fact, are completing their general education credits with us before transferring to a four-year school to complete a baccalaureate degree. Not all students complete their degrees in two years, and students may move part way through their degree program. Schedules may be such that it makes more sense to take a class at a specific school during a particular semester. The possibilities are endless, but our partnership brings EC3 and NPRC together to clear the hurdles from our students’ paths. If students can take courses both at EC3 and NPRC and have them count the same, this means that they can transfer or complete their degree or certificate without having to repeat or replace courses. They save money, time, and hassle, and that’s so important to our mission as community colleges.

For partnerships to work long term, both parties likewise need a shared vision and common goals. NPRC and EC3 brought this to our negotiation, and we are so pleased that we were able to come to a five-year agreement that stands to benefit so many students. We will spend that time continually working together to ensure that our students have as seamless a transition as possible. We are committed to removing barriers, and I’m so excited that we’ve found another way to do so with our new partner, NPRC!