AIC, STCC collaborate to create a smooth student pathway between the schools
SPRINGFIELD — The trend toward creating seamless pathways for community college students received another boost Thursday. American International College and Springfield Technical Community College signed a joint Articulation Agreement, which will allow community college students a planned, more natural entry to the four-year institution less than two miles away. “Articulation agreements come and go, but I see this could be a historical document. For Benitez, this agreement reflects his stated goals to make college and a four-year degree more accessible and affordable to all students, but particularly those of color, first-generation college students or those facing financial obstacles. “How do we create better pathways for students? How do we create a bridge?” Benitez asked rhetorically. “Our goal is to create a seamless transition for a student from STCC to arrive at AIC and pursue any degree of choice,” he said. “A seamless connection can be done without loss of time, credits or money.
The partnership comes just 46 days after Benitez assumed the AIC presidency. According to AIC vice-president of admissions Kerry Cole, transfer students will receive a $4,000 scholarship per year once they enter AIC as juniors, in addition to their earned merit scholarship, before any need-based aid is awarded. “For many students, this could make AIC less expensive than public institutions,” Cole said. The AIC Direct Connect program will allow students to study and major in their area of interest while attending community college. Benitez said the increased workload from the program will be shouldered by AIC staff, so as not to add burdens to the STCC staff. Cook said the average STCC student age is 26, which means many have already given plenty of thought to their career paths. The two schools have a history of partnership, but Cook said this collaboration “reinvigorates” the relationship.
One noteworthy aspect is that the new arrangement is designed to give students opportunity in any AIC major in which they choose to seek a degree. AIC Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs Michael Dodge said he’s eager to take on the work ahead. For most of the 75-year history of community colleges in Massachusetts, entry into two-year schools, and later four-year colleges, generally involved two separate admissions. The goal of collaboration has been to provide opportunity, motivation, financial aid and - of crucial nature - a melded, cohesive curriculum path. It also provides a student pipeline to the four-year school, at a time many such schools are seeking to maintain enrollment levels. Benitez and Cook said they shared a belief in the three core educational values of access, diversity and opportunity for students.
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