August 28, 2017 – Massachusetts college students enrolled in the Commonwealth Commitment program will now be able to choose from more than 40 majors, up from the initial six offered last year, to qualify for the discounts and rebates aimed at making a bachelor’s degree more affordable, the Baker-Polito Administration announced today.
With the program’s expansion, greater numbers of students will be able to save an average 40% off the cost of a traditional bachelor’s degree by starting their course of study at one of the state’s 15 community colleges and then transferring to a state university or University of Massachusetts campus. They will have significantly more options to choose from in the “MassTransfer A2B” — Associates to Bachelor’s — degree mapped programs which guarantee that course credits transfer between community colleges and the state’s public four-year universities. Students who sign up for the Commonwealth Commitment can choose from a wide range of majors that collectively represent 75% of the majors chosen by current public college and university students. The programs include computer science, business, criminal justice, architectural, industrial and graphic design, communications and early education, as well as liberal arts and sciences.
“This program is designed to make college more affordable for students and make it easier to earn a college degree in the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “By expanding the number of majors available through the Commonwealth Commitment program, our administration believes more students will be encouraged to pursue an affordable degree and transition into strong career opportunities right here in Massachusetts.”
“The Commonwealth Commitment program is designed to reduce cost and increase completion and graduation rates for students moving from the community colleges to state universities and UMass campuses,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “By opening this program to more majors, we expect more students to take advantage of this college affordability program, so they can go to school full-time and complete on-time.”
All majors offered by the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, as well as six specialty programs offered by the Massachusetts Maritime Academy will also now be eligible for Commonwealth Commitment discounts.
“We know that students who do not go to college full-time, largely because they cannot afford to, are less likely than their peers to complete their degrees," Education Secretary James Peyser said. “The Commonwealth Commitment is a new pathway we developed to make college completion a reality for more students by making it more affordable.”
“What began as a small pilot program is now poised to expand dramatically to serve more students in the 2017–18 academic year,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “While many states have begun experimenting with ways to reduce college costs, the Commonwealth Commitment is unique in creating incentives for students to earn two degrees in four years. We're hoping that students who may not have thought they could afford a bachelor's degree will be convinced to continue on with their education.”
In the spring of 2016, the Baker-Polito Administration launched the Commonwealth Commitment to provide Massachusetts students with discounts on tuition through transfer. Students first earn an associate degree at one of the state’s 15 community colleges and then complete bachelor’s degree at any public four-year institution. Once enrolled, students’ tuition and mandatory fees are frozen; they also receive rebates up to 10 percent at the end of each semester and a tuition waiver or credit during their junior and senior years. Students are required to go to school full-time and maintain a 3.0 grade point (“B”) average. Students can realize savings of 40 percent or more off the typical sticker price for a four-year degree, depending on the colleges they choose to attend, before other state and federal financial aid is factored in.
Students who enrolled in the Commonwealth Commitment program last year reported using their rebates to buy textbooks, pay the interest on student loans or receive credits toward next semester’s bill.
“As the Commonwealth's college of art and design, we're so pleased to help expand opportunities and accessibility for students who want to pursue their interests in the creative economy,” said David Nelson, President of MassArt. “This expansion of the Commonwealth Commitment program will give students who begin their studies at community colleges a clear path to a four-year program, where at MassArt they will find a strong academic foundation and a choice of 18 majors in art, design, and art education.”
“This initiative is a great help to our students who will achieve their associate and bachelor degrees at a considerable savings, keeping their dream of a college education affordable,” said Patricia Gentile, President of North Shore Community College.
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, one of the largest Fortune 500 companies based in Boston, recently launched a Commonwealth Commitment scholarship program for students worth $2500 a year for four years. The first winners of the scholarship will be announced this fall.