Episode #11. Did you know that in Massachusetts there are opportunities to reduce college costs as you earn your degree? The program is called MassTransfer, and it provides several benefits for students transitioning from a Massachusetts community college to a Massachusetts 4-year public college or university. On this episode of The MEFA Podcast, MEFA's Associate Director of College Planning Jonathan Hughes explains how MassTransfer guarantees transfer admission from an associate to a bachelor's degree program and the powerful savings it offers for students and their families. Jonathan also answers listener’s questions about the CARES Act, tax forms related to the U.Plan, and if saving for college will affect your financial aid. Jonathan is joined by MEFA's Director of College Planning, Julie Shields-Rutyna, Holyoke Community College’s Coordinator of Transfer Affairs & Articulation, Mark Broadbent, and University of Massachusetts Amherst student, Liuginsa Rosa. If you enjoy the MEFA Podcast, please leave us a review.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Jonathan Hughes: Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the MEFA podcast. My name is Jonathan Hughes and I'm the host of the MEFA podcast. And with me as always is Julie Shields-Rutyna. Hi Julie. Wait. Hello. Good morning, everyone. Today we're talking to Mark Broadbent, the Coordinator of Transfer Affairs and Articulation at Holyoke Community College and student Liuginsa Rosa about the MassTransfer program, which is a collaboration between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and public community colleges and public four year colleges designed to help students graduate with little to no debt. So it's something that we like to talk about a lot at MEFA and our presentations as a pathway to a four year degree.
So you're gonna want to listen to that, but before we do that, Julie let's talk federal student loan news. So what happened last week?
Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yes. So I know this is some news that's going to come as relief to many borrowers. So President Biden signed an executive order to extend the federal student loan relief.
And what does that mean for borrowers? Well, it basically extends what has already been in place until September. So this current pause as it's called, has been in place since the passage of the CARES act in March. And it is allowing students to pause on the repayment of all of their federal student loans.
So a student can make payments on their student loans if they want to, but they're not required to, and any payments that they do make will allow them to get ahead because the interest rate is set to zero. So if someone has not had a financial change during COVID, that could be good.
They could keep paying, and really get ahead on those student loans. And if they have had financial difficulties, which many, many people have, then they're not required to make those payments. So, that really, I think, is going to come as a little literal relief for 42 million borrowers, possibly.
Jonathan Hughes: So that's how many students are in repayment? That's a lot that I said I was surprised to see that number, but I shouldn't be surprised because my house is one of those houses that's going to be affected by this and in granted this relief. So, you know, not from my loans because my loans just paid off last year.
But my wife has federal student loans had already going to be, you know, again, the pause will affect that and there'll be a 0% interest rate. So this is all about giving people relief from their monthly payments and we know who it affects, but who does it not affect? So let's make that clear.
Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yes. Yes. So this for federal student loans, and not for private loans and we know that many students have both. So it's just always important to note that while this relief is there for your federal student loans. Yeah. It doesn't apply to your private student loans. So you need to talk with your private student loan servicer separately to, you know, if you need help with that, but that does not fall under this CARES act.
So it's just important to know what type of loan you have so that you know how to work with that and take advantage of the benefits and get the help you need, but get it from the right place.
Jonathan Hughes: Okay. Well, it's not always good, but then it's been a lot of good news lately. So let's hope that that trend continues.
Now we'll head over to the MEFS mailbag. And I'll say once again, that the questions on this segment have come to us over the past few weeks and they may be on your mind too. So remember if you have questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us. A full bench of experts are waiting to assist you. So our first question comes to us from Claire and she writes if your child has a savings account or CD, can those be counted against them when applying for financial aid or loans? So, Julie, do you want to take this one?
Julie Shields-Rutyna: Sure. Yes. So, well, you know, when you apply for financial aid, you're sharing the big picture of your financial situation, which includes parent income and assets, student income and assets.
So all of it is factored in. So if a student has a savings account or any investments, then a student's own savings or investments are treated at a rate of about 20% in the financial aid formula, meaning that the formula expects them to pay about [00:05:00] 20% of those assets per year toward educational costs.
With the thought that the student is the main beneficiary of the education. And that's how that’s treated. So if the student has a thousand dollars in the bank, then the expectation is that when they apply for financial aid in a given year, that about 200 of that would be used to be paid toward educational costs.
And I'll just add that because this is sort of a tangential question that we sometimes get. Money that is saved in the parent's name, and that includes 529 plans and prepaid tuition plans, those very specific types of college savings plans. Then the rate that the parent assets are assessed at is a maximum of 5.6%.
So a lot lower. So, you know, that's just something to know when thinking about how savings is counted and affects them.
Jonathan Hughes: Okay. So our next question comes to us from Mamie and Mamie writes, I received an owner payment for tuition certificates that my son didn't end up needing for his college tuition last August.
I have not received any tax report documents for me concerning how to pay taxes on the interest I earned. This is tax season or tax season is approaching. So, as with all tax questions, I will say that we're not tax experts. We're not tax preparers and all questions on U.Plan taxes should be directed to your tax preparers.
So having said that in general, I will say that tax paperwork for the U.Plan. So tax consequences has only generated on the U.Plan on those accounts that have more than $10 of post maturity interest in the past year. Okay. What does that mean? That sounds confusing. So basically if you're using your U.Plan, if you're cashing it out, you know, even if your child doesn't go to a participating college, or if you're sending it to participating college for tuition. That doesn't trigger any tax paperwork going up.
The only thing that does trigger any potential tax paperwork to be generated, you can hold onto these accounts after they mature. So when you put your money into that U.Plan, you're putting it into a bond and the bond has a maturity year. So you probably picked one or more of the years that the child is going to be in college for, but of course, plans change that sometimes you don't use it in that year and you can hold onto those certificates.
After they mature for up to six years. If you do that, any interest that accrues after the maturity, if it's over $10 in a year, then that generates tax paperwork to you. So any post maturity interest over $10, will generate a 1099 to go out to the owner. Those have been sent out. So it could be that you did not warrant any tax paperwork being sent out to you.
Maybe if you had, it would have been sent out or you could go onto your U.Plan account online and you can find that, it'd be mefa.org/uplan, and go access your account and access that tax paperwork on your online account. So remember, if you have any questions, we'll say once again, reach out to us at email@example.com or call us at 1-800-449-MEFA.
And now we'll head to my conversation with Mark from Holyoke Community College and students Liuginsa Rosa. Hi, everyone. I just wanted to let you know that we experienced some technical difficulties during this interview. And I apologize for that. At certain moments, the sound gets a little choppy.
It's just a few moments. So hopefully it won't substantially impact your enjoyment of this episode. I also want to call out the website, which I neglected to do for the MassTransfer program, which is. Mass.edu/masstransfer. Thank you.
Mark Broadbent is the Coordinator of Transfers and Articulation at Holyoke Community College. Liuginsa Rosa is a student at UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management. And I'm here to talk to you about the MassTransfer program, which Liuginsa, so you're currently moving through as a student, but first I want to talk to Mark about the program in general. Thank you both for being here.
Mark Broadbent: Thank you very much for having us.
Liuginsa Rosa: Thank you.
Jonathan Hughes: Sure. So, Mark, can you give the folks a brief description of what the MassTransfer program is?
Mark Broadbent: Absolutely. That transfer program is really, it's an umbrella program that has many programs that fall underneath it. So MassTransfer is kind of the broad heading and under it has MassTransfer general education foundation block, which is really how courses transferred in equates to general education requirements. There's a STEM gen ed block for those students in the heavy science majors. There's two types of maps programs. There's going to be mapped pathways or linked to pathways, and those are the programs that are eligible for MassTransfer.
Then we have the program Commonwealth Commitment, which allows students to get some money as they move through the program. We have a mass course to course database system, and then there's a reverse transfer component with MassTransfer as well. So there's a bunch of programs that fall under the broad heading with MassTransfer.
Jonathan Hughes: So, yeah, I wonder if you could tell me the difference between some of those programs, like the difference between the general education foundation, the ADB program and the Commonwealth Commitment program. Those are the three ones that we talk about, MEFA probably talks about with the MassTransfer program.
And I know there's a lot more, as you mentioned, but, if you could just sort of give people an idea of what the different facets of those programs are.
Mark Broadbent: Absolutely. So they kind of blend together, but they are different programs within MassTransfer. So we have two types of programs that our students could enroll in.
Maybe participating in MassTransfer, they have to be maps programs or linked programs. And the map program started right around 2016. Faculty came together in different areas and created foundational courses within those areas, biology, economics, psychology, or just in a few. And it's allows students to know exactly what courses that they need to take.
They can move through the program at the community college in a pretty timely fashion, and then transfer over to the four year school, knowing that their courses are going to transfer. Then I discussed a little bit about the MassTransfer block and that's a set of courses that are built into our majors that are most of the pathway majors have the black in the blood equates to the state university's general education requirements.
So it's the two English courses, nine credits of social science, anthropology, political science, psychology, sociology courses, like that. Nine credits of humanities. Art music, history, philosophy, foreign languages, two lab sizes, and a 100 level math class. So when students complete that block, plus the pathway, they know their 60 credit degree will transfer over. Their general education requirements are done at the four-year school, except for an additional two courses that we'll do once they get to the four year school.
And then Commonwealth Commitment falls under the map programs. So students that are in those mat programs, knowing exactly what foundational courses that they need to take can sign up for Commonwealth Commitment before they've earned 15 college credits. It gives the students a rebate every semester that they're full-time 12 credits with us 3.0 GPA or higher.
They get a 10% rebate and we actually physically give them a check. It's about $280. But for students at HCC, they have to go through the pathway in two and a half years, transfer right onto the four year state school. And then they go to 14 credits, which is considered full-time it's at the universities, and maintain that B average.
And they'll get a rebate at those schools as well. The other benefit is we freeze our tuition rate. So a student starts in fall of 2020. We increase our tuition for fall of 2021. They go back to that rate. They pay that rate through their time at home. Once they transfer on the four year school, we’ll then look back to the semester they started and that's the tuition rate they'll pay at the four year school as well.
So not only are they getting the 10% rebate, but they're also getting a little freeze on tuition. So as I said, they kind of all mapped together. They all kind of go in together. Even though they're like separate entities under mastery.
Jonathan Hughes: And so Holyoke Community College then is partnered with different programs or different colleges in this program. Who are the colleges that are partnered with HCC in this venture?
Mark Broadbent: So it's all the Massachusetts state universities. So it's the four UMass campuses, Amherst, Boston, Lowell, Dartmouth. Then the state universities, Westfield, Bridgewater, Fitchburg, Framingham, Salem, Mass College of Liberal Arts, Worcester State, all of those schools fall under MassTransfer. So use it technically at the other community colleges, because many times students will jump from one community college.
So now they may need a course, um, at that particular school, or they may find a program that fits them better at that particular school. So there are some benefits as far as doing that, basically as far as making sure you know, what courses you're taking.
Jonathan Hughes: Okay. So you're partnering with all of the States. They can start at HCC and transfer to any Massachusetts state school within this program. Now you mentioned also a reverse transfer and I was interested to hear about that. I was wondering if you could talk about that a bit.
Mark Broadbent: Absolutely. So reverse transfers the situation where a student may not necessarily complete their degree with us transfer onto the four year school, but then say, you know what?
I still want to meet my degree requirements and at least obtain the degree and the credential at the community college. So they can then send their courses back that fit for the community college degree, transferring those credits back while they're at the four year school. Earn the degree at the community college while still working towards the four year degree will take 45 credits and transfer.
So if a student has a couple of classes that they just didn't get the degree or couldn't do it because of timing or whatever, they can then transfer those credits back from a four year, earn their associate degree.
Jonathan Hughes: That's great. And, you know, the way we talk about the MassTransfer program at MEFA is generally as a pathway for students to earn a four year degree as inexpensively as possible with little to no debt graduating from that four year program. And so that's why I'm really happy to have a student who's going through that program right now. Thank you, Liuginsa for agreeing to be with us today. And I can't wait to hear what you have to say about the program, but thank you very much for joining us.
Liuginsa Rosa: Right. It's my pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
Jonathan Hughes: Sure. Of course. Can you tell me how you first became aware of the program?
Liuginsa Rosa: Yes. I knew about the program in my first semester at HCC through my advisor, and we sat together and we went through my curriculum. We discussed also my goals at HCC and my career path. She told me about the MassTransfer program.
And I liked all that I heard about the program. I immediately made an appointment with Mark. And in that meeting, Mark told me everything about the more details on the commitment. And I was interested.
Jonathan Hughes: So if I can ask you then, where are you now in your education?
Liuginsa Rosa: Right now? I am at Isenberg School of Management at UMass. I am pursuing a degree in business administration and my major is in accounting. I am a junior right now.
Jonathan Hughes: Okay, well, and so this is something that you just started this year, then for UMass.
Liuginsa Rosa: Okay. This is my second semester. This is my second semester.
Everything is being built is not what I expected, but it's going well.
Jonathan Hughes: Yeah, go ahead, and glad to hear it. So if I can ask you, what were some of the aspects of the program that personally benefited you? Well, first of all, which path did you take? Are you in the ADB program? Commonwealth Commitment? And what part of the programs have you found to be a benefit to you?
Liuginsa Rosa: The program has a lot of benefits. Jonathan, I can tell you some of the benefits that the program provides to me, for example, at HCC, we have the program is degree works, which is customized with the MassTransfer block.
And every time I knew the courses that I have to take for my next semester, I feel in control. Because I knew what was coming on my next semester on also the 10% rebate. It's really great when I open it up an envelope with money in file, a check that I could use for whatever I won expenses that I wanted to cover with.
It was great. It's like getting paid for going to school for doing something that you would do anyway. And also. on the admission at UMass? I knew that I just have to focus on keeping my grades in shape because that was a key element to get accepted at UMass. And I did work tirelessly to keep my GPA on shape.
And that was one more time doing something that I needed to do anyway. One more thing is that I transferred 65 courses with no problems at all. So I transferred 65 credits from HCC to UMass. Without any inconvenience. They accepted my credits at HCC. Something else is the small classes that I have now because I did all my general education at HCC.
Of course, everything is built on. Right now it’s online, but this is going to end, you know, my classes are more 35 students are, you know, that you must can have even 200 plus student in a classroom.
Jonathan Hughes: This is a benefit. Yes. So you took all of your general education requirements, or most of them, at HCC.
So now you have smaller classes and I'm imagining the classes are accounting classes or business classes.
Liuginsa Rosa: Yes. Those are accounting classes. This is something is challenging because we have no classes like to say, this is my easy one or demanding. Because now they are very concentrated on my major because having a small classes helps to build a better relationship with my professors and my classmates, we get to know each other.
We get to speak about different things together. Which is great. I don't have to remember 200 or 100 plus 30, 35. We are a small group.
Jonathan Hughes: So, you know, are there any things that have helped you to stay focused on your educational goals that you can share with everybody?
Liuginsa Rosa: Yes, of course. I have a lot of support. From my family, they are always with me every step of the way.
Also HCC has a very well-designed support system around a student, including Mark. That was always there for me supporting me. And also I remember that he used to send me letters at home with reminder, you still need to take this course. You have sealed this. You know, that combined different classes that were not that challenging with someone that were more demanding.
And that was, I feel like I was empowered because that support system keeps me focused on what I needed to do.
Jonathan Hughes: Is this something that you would recommend that other people look into as the MassTransfer program?
Liuginsa Rosa: Absolutely. Have that you will be accepted in the university. I always knew that I wanted to, that was my North.
And I knew that I would be there because I was doing the work. I was focusing on school doing, getting my grades. And I knew that I would be there because the program or so I knew that I would be saving some money because I don't have to pay for applying to other universities. Which is expensive. I didn't have to do that.
I didn't have to do any essay at all.
Jonathan Hughes: Well, I really thank you guys, both for coming on, and I hope that you have great success and you're able to actually get on campus soon to UMass. That would be great, but I wish you all the best luck in the future. And once again, Mark, thank you for coming on.
Mark Broadbent: Thank you for having me.
Liuginsa Rosa: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Jonathan Hughes: Thanks for listening, Julie. It was a pleasure as always. Thank you. Like or subscribe to the podcast and you can do that whatever podcast app you found us, or even better leave us a good review and helps people to find us.
Otherwise, if you have questions, I'll say it for the third time. Contact us. Thanks so much. Thanks.