Tolia Mouzon has burned through more cars than laptops during four years of college -- taking classes at seven campuses used by Wayne and Oakland community colleges and Wayne State University.
"I haven't had a problem," said Mouzon, 22, of Detroit.
Long competitors for students, Michigan's universities and community colleges are finding it's increasingly good for business to team up instead.
New partnerships between the two types of institutions go beyond the old articulation agreements that often were inflexible and fraught with dropped credits, lost paperwork and, at times, ill-prepared students.
These days, students can move back and forth between campuses with ease and less expense. In some partnerships, ID cards work on both campuses, and computer systems have been merged so that financial aid office staff and other college workers pull up the same paperwork on either campus.
"Learning is no longer linear," said Norma Kent, spokeswoman for the American Association of Community Colleges. "You have students going to university, then back to the community college, then back to university. ... It's the notion that the students choose the instruction, the classes that fit their need at the moment."
All this clears the route to a 4-year degree.
Mike Guido has taken classes at the University of Michigan and Henry Ford Community College since 2005 through a shared program for architecture students.
His last stop before graduating from U-M's Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning is to be an HFCC classroom this summer for his last few credits.
The 22-year-old said the back-and-forth between schools couldn't have been easier. "I went to the office of registrar at Henry Ford, and they took care of it," Guido said.
In one of the most progressive transfer agreements in the state so far, Macomb Community College has partnered with Oakland University in the M2O program.
In it, students are dual enrolled in the schools. ID cards work on both campuses, and credit hours can be combined from both schools to tap into financial aid.
Late last year, Western Michigan University and Kellogg Community College also introduced a dual admissions program.
Eastern Michigan University, which has more than 80 articulation agreements with more than a dozen community colleges, rolled out several new 3 + 1 programs, in which students take three years of courses at a community college and their final year at EMU.
Wayne State University plans to open a new facility at Macomb Community College's Warren campus to serve as the home to WSU's advanced technology and business programs at Macomb.
Students there can obtain a 4-year degree or master's degree in those programs without ever stepping foot on the main WSU campus, said Lois Valente, marketing coordinator for educational outreach.
"It's a big change in the educational paradigm," she said.
Across the state line, Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College are taking it even farther.
They're trying to identify community college students who may transfer into a 4-year degree program at OSU and, ultimately, move into its medical college.
If the plan is successful, it could be replicated elsewhere, even at schools such as U-M, said Ron Williams, vice president of the College Board, a national nonprofit that helped broker the plan.
Good for business
Such ideas show that as much as such partnerships serve students, they make good business sense, Williams said.
Community colleges can market themselves as a stepping-stone to higher degrees.
Meanwhile, university officials -- well aware that the U.S. census predicts a shrinking pool of college-age students in the coming years -- would rather have students for a year or two than none at all.
And those 4-year schools can reach into community colleges that traditionally have more underserved populations -- a diversity that 4-year schools often lack.
Universities also are noticing that community colleges are handing over well-prepared students, some of whom might have lagged academically or socially if they started at a 4-year campus.
That says something "not only about the quality of the students themselves, but also the quality of the community colleges," said Dilip Das, an adviser in the provost's office at U-M.
Finally, in Michigan's gasping economy, universities know they may lose students to community college, where those students can shave thousands of dollars on their college bill by staying at home for a few years.
That's especially true if those students still are trying to figure out what they want to do, said Donald Ritzenhein, provost and chief learning officer at MCC.
"It's a lot easier to experiment with courses at $70 an hour instead of $300 an hour," he said.
Contact ROBIN ERB at 313-222-2708 or firstname.lastname@example.org.