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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Ryan S. Wells

Second Advisor

Ezekiel Kimball

Third Advisor

Kathleen Harrington

Subject Categories

Community College Education Administration | Community College Leadership | Higher Education | Other History | Policy History, Theory, and Methods | Public Policy


Community colleges carry out dual missions providing occupational and collegiate preparation in local communities across the United States. These institutions prepare students for advanced study via transfer policies that lead to enrollment in baccalaureate institutions. State higher education systems use transfer and articulation policies to strengthen academic pathways between two-year and four-year institutions. These policies rely on established governance to facilitate student transfer between sectors. The transfer and articulation literature stresses the importance of statewide policy guidelines, yet little has been written about the process of transfer policy development involving state higher education governance and policy groups and actors. The history of transfer policy formation in Massachusetts presents a unique case. From 1974 to 2009, a series of guidelines were produced. Despite the seemingly long-term commitment to transfer and articulation, controversies around policy authority, implementation, and compliance have persisted. Moreover, transfer and articulation guidelines were created within different public higher education governance settings and comprised diverse policy environments and actors. Research questions focus on categorizing transfer guidelines and investigating how public higher education governance, policy groups, and actors, influenced the development of transfer articulation policy. This inquiry followed a case study format making use of archival and oral history research methods. Archival research methods converged on obtaining formal records chronicling outcomes of system and policy activity as well as unofficial documents detailing background events. Oral histories supplemented written records with first-person perspectives of policy activity at different points. Policy environments including governance structures, groups, and actors, were then compared across historical periods to better understand how transfer and articulation issues have been perceived, organized, and addressed. Results point to cyclical policy creation. At times, state higher education governance led the process, and at other times regional collaborations between two-year and four-year institutions resulted in innovative linkages. This history suggests ongoing tension between centralized control and individual campus autonomy, which plays out in transfer guideline implementation. The study offers recommendations for future research in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Ultimately, this inquiry has critical value for higher education systems, institutions, and professionals who guide community college students through the transfer process.