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This Guidebook is designed to encourage unprecedented cooperation between four-year institutions and community colleges. The advice goes far beyond articulation to creating a culture of cooperation and inclusion.

From the time of widespread establishment of community colleges until now, clearing a pathway from the two-year college to baccalaureate graduation was assumed to be the sole responsibility of the community college. The university or liberal arts college served more as gatekeeper than facilitator. As a result, community college students, often the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education, were expected to navigate two complex bureaucracies with help only from the community college.

The Dual Degree Program (DDP) at Governors State University was designed to change all that. The idea is to work in partnership with community colleges to illuminate pathways for students to successful completion of the bachelor’s degree. This new kind of cooperation is student-centered. The community colleges and universities agree that our shared goal is for qualified students to attain a high-quality four-year degree. The DDP partnership also requires breaking down hierarchies. No more is it acceptable for university faculty to look down on community college colleagues or for community college faculty members to disdain university faculty as remote and disengaged from students.

The pages that follow include the story of culture change among community colleges and a university in Chicagoland. We hope it’s enlightening. We don’t intend it to be formulaic. We are aware of a number of ongoing partnerships that are different from the DDP but just as effective. They all have woven cross-institutional cooperation into the university/college infrastructure with articulated policies and ongoing budget allocations. All partnership programs depend on respect—respect among colleagues and respect for students who need, as one DDP student said in praise of the GSU program, a “flashlight” to illuminate the “dark and winding road” between the community college and university.


This project was supported by the Kresge Foundation. This book may be printed and distributed for non-profit educational uses only. Please contact for more information.

Originally published in June 2019, please note this Electronic Online Edition was revised in September 2019.