You’ve earned an associate’s degree in business at Middlesex Community College and now want to move on to a state university for a bachelor’s in accounting.
But you have no idea if you’ve wasted time and money taking classes that won’t transfer if you choose Framingham State University versus University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Until recently, the Massachusetts public higher education system had 2,200 different transfer agreements among the 29 different campuses, making it nearly impossible for students to know what credits would count, and where.
But higher education officials and faculty have spent the past several years creating a new transfer program designed to make it easier and more affordable for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in Massachusetts.
“What discourages students is they attend community college and realize a course won’t transfer,’’ said Philip Sisson, provost and vice president of academic and student affairs at Middlesex Community College. “We now know the requirements are all aligned and students have more choices. It takes a lot of the mystery out of transferring.’’
Not only is the system intended to be seamless for students, but Carlos Santiago, the state commissioner of higher education, said it is now easier for students to get answers.
The Mass Transfer website (www.mass.edu/masstransfer) allows students to map out their college education and see the most affordable options, Santiago said.
Santiago said affordability is key to keeping students in the system at a time when college enrollment is shrinking and institutions are vying for a smaller pool of students.
Students can enter their community college and degree programs and find out where in the system they can continue their educations. The website also includes a savings calculator to show how much students can save by starting at a community college.
According to the Department of Higher Education, students can save on average, 40 percent by earning a bachelor’s degree through the Commonwealth Commitment transfer program compared with attending all four years at a state university or UMass.
“It’s allowing consumers to make wise choices to further their public education in the state,’’ Sisson said.
The Mass Transfer program has three different components — the general education foundation, the A2B Degree (associate’s to bachelor’s degree), and the A2B Degree combined with the Commonwealth Commitment.
The general education foundation is a set of credits that is accepted at all community colleges, state universities, and UMass campuses. These credits, when completed together with a 2.0 or higher GPA, fully transfer to any Massachusetts public higher education institution — even without an associate’s degree.
The other programs are designed to help students who have completed an associate’s degree at a community college and want to transfer to a state university or UMass campus as juniors, Santiago said.
Under the A2B program, students have a guaranteed transfer of credits, no application fee, and no application essay.
And, depending on a student’s GPA and/or prerequisite course work, students may also qualify for other benefits including guaranteed admission and a tuition credit.
There are currently pathways to more than 50 majors under this option, with new ones being offered this fall. State officials say those major pathways capture about 80 percent of all students transferring from the community colleges to four-year programs.
The third Mass Transfer option is the Commonwealth Commitment program. Through it, students who enroll full time at one of the state’s 15 community colleges will be able to transfer to a state university or UMass campus and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in one of a number of select programs.
Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and graduate in no more than 4½ years. Students in the program will see substantial savings off the total price of a traditional bachelor’s degree, qualifying for a freeze in tuition and mandatory fees, 10 percent per-semester rebates, and a full tuition credit in their last two years of school worth an average of $1,200.
“The Mass Transfer pathways and Commonwealth Commitment are game-changers for students who want to transfer to four-year public institutions in the state,’’ Sisson said. “Mass Transfer has made it much easier for students to see that pathway. It’s much clearer now.’’
Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org