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North Shore Community College and Salem State University forge path for the future

From left, Salem State President John Keenan, Commissioner of the MA Department of Higher Education Carlos Santiago, and NSCC President Patricia Gentile sign an MOA for exteneded partnership between the two schools. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — North Shore Community College (NSCC) and Salem State University (SSU) have been working together for years. They took their relationship to the next level Friday morning.

NSCC President Patricia Gentile and SSU President John Keenan were joined by Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos E. Santiago for the formal signing of a memorandum of agreement for an expanded partnership between the two institutions. The agreement is designed to create a seamless transfer pathway from NSCC to SSU, which includes student housing and trying to reduce the cost of a four-year degree, according to Gentile.

“We have been collaborating for years and years, so obviously there is a relationship between the two institutions,” Gentile said. “The majority of our students who transfer to a four-year school, transfer there. We have a lot in common, like servicing the North Shore area and having similar degree programs and pathways.”

The agreement focused on three specific areas for the two institutions to work on over the next five years, Gentile said.

The first area ensures the academic pathways between the two schools are seamless for NSCC students who plan on transferring to SSU. Gentile said even though they both participate in MassTransfer, which is the state’s transfer pathway, there always seem to be hiccups, especially when it comes to students transferring credits in different degrees and reverse transfers.

The schools will host a summit at the beginning of every year to focus on improving two specific degree programs, according to Gentile. This January, members from both institutions will meet up to discuss their psychology and information technology degrees.

The second area focuses on shared extracurricular activities and NSCC student housing issues, she said. The NSCC president said the two schools are working together to devise a housing option on SSU’s campus.

“We did a survey of our students to see how much interest there would be for housing and there was quite a bit of it,” Gentile said. “It will be an option for students, not a requirement.”

For extracurricular activities, Gentile said the two schools are working on implementing a way to have both of their student clubs and honors programs reflect each other, making for a smoother transition from students.

The third area of focus is cost containment. Gentile said it is expensive to run these insitutitions so they hope to find ways to work together to share some of those expenses or needs which would help them both contain costs and open the door for resources they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.

For instance, both institutions own buildings that require the consistent maintenance of an engineer, Gentile said. The two presidents think being able to share one engineer for both buildings would be one way to contain costs, she said.

The agreement is a commitment from both schools to continuously improve their relationship in order to reach the needs of all their students, Gentile said.

“We hope our students have a fuller post-secondary experience, that we can ensure easier transfers to pathways at Salem State, and that we contain costs so they continue to have as much of an affordable experience as possible while getting their degrees,” Gentile said. “It’s scary to move to another college and we just want to help our students do that and still feel familiar. Many of our students are first generation students, so college is a scary experience and once they feel comfortable we know they are anxious about moving on to another college.”

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