Mass transfer guarantees community college credits will travel

Mick Franzen planned his education wisely and frugally by attending MassBay Community College in Massachusetts, getting good grades, and using the state’s credit transfer program to enroll, with those credits intact, at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Mick Franzen dreamed of going to a four-year college but the price of tuition made him think twice.

“Not having that daunting student debt was my goal,” said Franzen, who decided, as a cost-saving measure, to do his first two years of undergraduate study at MassBay Community College. That decision saved Franzen thousands of dollars in tuition and housing costs and allowed him to work part-time.

It also had him wondering initially whether his credits from MassBay would transfer to a four-year school.

He had no reason to worry. All of Franzen’s MassBay credits were accepted when he transferred to the prestigious Isenberg School of Management, the business school at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

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Franzen, who graduates in 2019 with a degree in business management, can thank the state Department of Higher Education for his success.

Under that department’s Mass Transfer program, students who begin their higher education at a Massachusetts community college can transfer all of their credits if they continue their education at one of the state’s public colleges or universities. There are a few stipulations however: Students must have a C- or better grade point average when they transfer to a four-year school. The Mass Transfer program also only applies to transferring credits within Massachusetts. All of the state’s public colleges and universities must accept those credits, but there is no guarantee that private institutions or schools outside of Massachusetts will do the same.

“It’s a seamless transfer process,” says Linda Slavin, MassBay’s assistant vice president of enrollment management, explaining that transferring students only need to fill out a Mass Transfer application and submit a copy of their transcript in order to step up to a four-year state public school.

Franzen suggests that students entering a community college sit down with a school counselor and explain their educational goals first, then align courses with credits that can easily be transferred to a four-year, in-state school.    Doing that can result in financial savings and save students time.

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The plan certainly worked for Franzen; he won’t be saddled with so much student debt when he graduates. But the transfer student saw his acceptance to the UMass business school as an even bigger reward—Isenberg is the same school that once rejected his father. “I framed my acceptance letter and gave it to him for his birthday,” says Franzen.

For students wishing to transfer their state community college credits to private institutions in the state or to schools outside of Massachusetts, the situation is a bit different. There are no guarantees those credits will transfer.

Regardless of where they wish to transfer, it’s important for all students planning to pursue a four-year degree to check with the public or private school they expect to attend, said Christopher LaBarbera, dean of humanities and social sciences at MassBay. “It’s due diligence for students to ask: ‘What is your policy for prior learning experience in general,’ ” he says.

John Eisler, dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies at Springfield College, a private co-educational school with campuses in Springfield and Boston, says each private institution determines the number of educational credits it will accept for transfer but most also accept credits for life experiences such as on-the-job or military training.

“Students are likely to graduate if they can start with that momentum,” he says of those transfer and life experience credits. “It really helps students complete their degrees.”

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