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College Leaders Sign Pact To Cap Cost Of A Diploma


Two colleges in western Massachusetts have announced a student transfer program that puts a cap on the cost of a diploma.

The agreement between Westfield State University and Holyoke Community College gives commuter students an opportunity to earn a degree at both the associate’s and bachelor’s levels for a total cost of $30,000 in tuition and mandatory student fees.

" What we are doing is putting together a four-year college degree that is roughly the cost of a new car," said Westfield State University Interim President Elzabeth Preston.

Preston and Holyoke Community College President William Messner signed the agreement Friday. Preston said the “Presidents’ MassTransfer” program will open the door to college for more people who thought they could not afford it.

" We are very aware that Massachusetts, and particularly western Massachusetts, is not producing enough college graduates, and so we are looking for ways to make ( college) more possible."

Based on the current cost to attend Westfield State for four years, excluding room and board, the program would save a student about $5,000.  Scholarships and other financial aid could further reduce the out-of-pocket costs or loan debt.

Messner stressed the program will provide predictability for students and their parents when it comes to budgeting for the cost of a higher education.

" Because we are public institutions located in western Massachusetts we understand students from this area can not afford high levels of tuition and fees," said Messner.

There is already a pipeline between the two schools.  Forty percent of Westfield State’s transfer students –about 250 a year-- come from HCC

The new program will start in the fall 2015 semester. First-year students in designated associate’s degree programs at HCC can sign up to participate.  Students have three years to complete their studies at the community college, and then must transfer immediately to Westfield State where there is a three-year deadline to earn the bachelor’s degree.

Most majors offered at Westfield State are eligible for the program, including business management, criminal justice, communications, economics, and political science, according to Carlton Pickron, Vice President, Student Affairs at WSU.

" The programs were chosen based on courses ( students) can complete in two years," said Pickron.

State Rep. Aaron Vega of Holyoke, who served on legislative commission in 2013 that studied the student loan debt problem in Massachusetts, praised the pact that caps the college cost.

"  This is right in line with the kind of programs we were looking to do," said Vega.

Westfield State was awarded a planning grant from the state in December for an Early College High School program.  It will allow students to earn college credit for certain coursework in high school.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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