Superintendent expresses thoughts on State’s college tuition savings plan

SOUTHWICK, Mass. (The Westfield News) – The high price for attending a four-year college and the effect of an endless amount of student loans, are always major concerns for future college students and their families.

In his December 16 weekly update to schools across the Commonwealth, Commissioner Mitchell Chester of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, shared information that could potentially benefit those concerned with the expenses of a four-year college or university.

Directly from his report, Chester explains the news from the state that could be a major boost for incoming college students.

“Governor Baker has a message for graduating high school seniors and their families: The state will help them save an average of 40 percent off the cost of a traditional bachelor’s degree if students can attend college full-time and graduate within four and a half years.”

The update made by Commissioner Chester is labeled the “Commonwealth Commitment.” Part of the commitment involves students beginning at one of the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts.

The students must hold a cumulative GPA (Grade Point Average) of a 3.0, and attend full-time.

Superintendent Jen Willard gives her thoughts on Commissioner Chester's weekly update on December 16. (WNG File Photo)
Superintendent Jen Willard gives her thoughts on Commissioner Chester’s weekly update on December 16. (WNG File Photo)

After attending a community college and receiving an associate’s degree in two and a half years or less, students will be able to transfer to any state university or any UMass campus. There are a total of 24 colleges that are transfer pathways as a part of the Commonwealth Commitment. Fourteen of the colleges have rolled out in the fall of 2016 and 10 more will in the fall of 2017.

A key benefit to this commitment includes a 10 percent per-semester rebate which is worth an average of $1,200 from tuition credit. A freeze will also occur on all mandatory fees.

In the update, Gov. Charlie Baker said, “The Commonwealth Commitment will make it even easier for students to go to school full-time and begin their careers with less debt and we are pleased that our higher education officials have worked collaboratively to make this program a reality.”

Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District Superintendent Jen Willard was elated to hear about the update and how it can benefit several high school seniors at the Southwick Regional School.

“It’s the fees that cost so much money,” said Willard. “I think it’s a nice option to look into.”

A graduate from Westfield State University, Willard says she got a great education at that particular state school and is pleased that high school students will get a tremendous opportunity from any of the 24 colleges.

“It’s the fact that our students will be able to get a more financially affordable opportunity,” said Willard.

As the new plan to help save money for high school seniors has been revealed, Willard sees the recipe for success ultimately being the result of a two-way street.

“It’s a commitment on the part of the students and a commitment on the part of the state to work together,” said Willard.

For more information on the Commonwealth Commitment, go to www.mass.edu/masstransfer.