FSU and MassBay Community College partner on transfer initiative

Framingham State University and MassBay Community College were selected for a new Equity Transfer Initiative (ETI) partnership.

The ETI is a partnership between community and four-year colleges to help increase the transfer rates of underrepresented students from two-year to four-year colleges, according to the American Association for Community Colleges’ (AACC) website.

Sixteen partnerships from 13 states representing 17 community colleges and 19 universities were selected, according to the AACC website.

The ETI program will last two years and will award up to $27,500 to fund partnerships, according to a Jan. 28 FSU press release.

According to the program grant proposal, the aim of the ETI is to “create and/or expand transfer pathways through an equity lens for African American, Hispanic, and first-generation learners that lead to degrees in high-demand occupations with family-sustaining wages.”

Martha Parham, senior vice president public relations for the AACC, said the underrepresented students are those who “are not completing transfer at the same rate as white students.

“Colleges that are participating in the Equity Transfer Initiative will be doing a very deep dive into their processes, their policies, and their practices to really look at where the barriers are and work to eliminate them,” she added.

LaDonna Bridges, FSU’s associate dean of academic success and director of CASA, said, “The intention is that we tie our services more closely together, so that it feels like there’s a handoff from one organization to the other.”

The ETI program focuses on computer science, nursing, STEM, education, criminology/sociology, and management pathways, according to the program’s grant proposal.

The program grant proposal lists individual careers in high demand to help give MassBay and FSU the opportunity to direct students to pathways that will result in jobs with family-sustaining wages.

At MassBay, Black/African American students make up 12.2% of the population, the Hispanic population is 17.6%, and first-generation students are 19.1%, according to the proposal.

However, over the last four academic years, the percentage of African American, Hispanic, and first-generation students transferring from MassBay to a four-year college was only 1% to 2%, according to the proposal.

Constanza Cabello, vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, said now is the time to “ramp up” those efforts to support these students.

To promote recruitment and transfer of these underrepresented populations, MassBay will make announcements in academic classes regarding the new transfer initiative and staff will highlight the benefits of transferring to a four-year college at career fairs, according to the proposal.


FSU will send students and Admissions’ staff to MassBay for informational sessions with MassBay students about transfer policies and course equivalencies, according to the proposal.

The goal of the project is to recruit and enroll at least 100 students into the aligned transfer pathways by the end of Summer 2021 and at least 300 by the program’s second year, according to the proposal.

According to Parham, each of the institutions and partnerships selected for the ETI will be receiving a transfer coach. “Those coaches will help them kind of work through a process that we’ve developed. That really is an audit of their process, and they’ll determine the best ways to to beef up their transfer pathway.”

Richard Williams, associate dean for student success at MassBay Community College, said, “Once we get together with our coach – once we get our working groups together, we sit down with FSU folks and our team.”

He added, “Once we actually get down to the work that we’re going to be doing, I think a lot of the stuff is really fluid in terms of what we might be trying to achieve.

“Within the next month, though, we’ll probably have a much better idea of what our goals are going to be, and what our activities are going to be, and how we’re going to reach our goals,” said Williams. 

Parham stated these coaches are experts in community college transfer, and will deliver one-on-one attention to those partnerships. 

“Equity looks and is different in different places,” she added. “We’re really trying to provide tools so that people can identify where those gaps are, what they are, why they are, and then work toward eradicating them – that’s the ultimate goal.” 

Williams said, “We’ve always been concerned around equity, but it has become a real focus for us in the last few years.”  

Cabello said, “I think that this was also part of a larger conversation we’re having at the University around being committed to anti-racism. Part of that is just being able to get rid of the structural and systemic racism and inequities that exist and how we are creating a more equitable community.”

FSU started a campus-wide anti-racism initiative in 2020. According to the grant proposal, that initiative is currently having a positive impact on the transfer process.