Presidents of Fitchburg State University, Mount Wachusett Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, and Worcester State University signed a unique student-centered “Finish First” agreement on Thursday, March 31 at Worcester State University.
“Finish First,” developed to encourage students to complete their college degree programs, was recently established by the presidents of the four Worcester County public colleges and universities.
The student- centered initiative supports a unified commitment to improving student persistence and degree completion. The benefit to students, at no additional cost, is the ability to work toward and obtain an associate’s degree and enhance their credentials while matriculating at the baccalaureate institution.
The initiative benefits the colleges as well, by addressing institutional outcomes related to student persistence and retention.
Each year in October and again in February, the two community colleges will identify students who have left their institutions from the previous terms and enrolled at Fitchburg State or Worcester State, and have completed the number of credits equal to satisfy residency requirements for degree or certificate completion at the home community college.
Once students have been identified, Fitchburg State or Worcester State will provide or verify the student’s current address with the community college. Then the community college will send letters encouraging the students to continue their enrollment at the state university and send their credits back to the community college to be applied towards their associate degree. The letter will include a waiver that the student can complete authorizing the state university to send his or her transcript to the community college each semester for the duration of their enrollment at the state university.
Once a student has satisfied his or her degree requirements at the community college, the university will have the student complete the application for graduation and waive all graduation fees. Students will be included in all commencement activities at the native community college.
At the conclusion of each fall and spring semester, the community colleges will notify the four-year institutions of students who have completed their associate degree or certificate.
“I initiated this program with the county’s public colleges and universities because I wanted to bring credits back to the community college to ensure that students were awarded associate’s degrees,” said Quinsigamond Community College President Gail Carberry. “I saw data that showed that employees with associate’s degrees earned significantly more than those without. As I understand that many of our transfer students work while they earn their bachelor’s degree, I felt that this was an important milestone for them to accomplish. The Finish First program will ensure that our students have the tools they need to succeed.”
“The Finish First initiative will give many transfer students a competitive edge while pursuing their bachelor’s degrees,” said Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino. “By reversing the credits back to their home community college to complete the requirements for an associate degree or certificate, students will be able to add these credentials to their resumes. The accomplishment will be beneficial on job interviews or to enhance the opportunity for advancement in their current workplace.”
“We are so proud to be a part of this agreement,” said Worcester State President Janelle Ashley. “This initiative will give students the credit and recognition they deserve as well as a sense of accomplishment that will support retention efforts.”
“This project is another example of the strong collaborations that occur between the public institutions of higher education in Central Massachusetts,” said Fitchburg State University President Robert V. Antonucci. “Finish First will help the individual institutions by supporting retention efforts at the same time it allows students to achieve their professional and academic goals.”
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