Travis Blizzard had it planned from the start: He graduated from South Carroll High School and went to Carroll Community College for two years, intending to transfer to Western Maryland College for his junior year.
The process for him was smooth. Now it should work well for any Carroll Community College student who wants to transfer to Western Maryland, Hood College, and possibly more schools in the next year.
Community College President Joseph F. Shields has developed agreements with those schools. A student with an associate of arts degree from Carroll can transfer with at least 60 credits, as a full junior.
The agreements will allow smoother transfers, so that students don't have to repeat courses taken at Carroll. Carroll students also may be able to sample a course at Hood or WMC, for the same $48 per credit hour they pay at Carroll. Compare that with $395 per credit hour at Hood and $485 at Western Maryland, and the deal is sweet.
In addition, students can save money by going to Carroll for two years, then transferring to the private schools for their last two years.
The savings alone wouldn't mean much, said Travis Blizzard, if Carroll weren't such a good school.
He said he could have gone to Western Maryland College after high school, but liked Carroll so much he decided to spend two years there first.
Mr. Blizzard of New Windsor and Carol Dorsey of Westminster say they were able to transfer all the credits they earned at Carroll Community College. Ms. Dorsey is a student at Hood.
But both say they had classmates who talked of trouble transferring Carroll credits, especially to Towson State University, which requires certain academic courses to be taken on its campus.
Dr. Shields has been talking with officials at University of Maryland Baltimore County about a similar agreement. Carroll's director of curriculum, Donald Janisiewicz, said the college intends to work with more schools.
"We've had to start in places where they have a great interest, as we had a great interest," Mr. Janisiewicz said.
Joy Derr, director of public relations at Hood, said the agreement should bring more students to sample Hood and perhaps enroll there full time.
"Hood was one of the pioneers, more than 20 years ago, that really identified the adult learner market and started reaching out to those students," Ms. Derr said.
Many community college students are like Ms. Dorsey, 48, who was reluctant to dive in as a full-time student at a private college.
She started by taking two courses her first semester at Carroll in 1990 and working up to five courses a semester. Even before the transfer agreement, Hood accepted all her credits when she entered there last year, she said.
"I didn't know what I wanted to take" when she first went to Carroll, Ms. Dorsey said. "I would never have gone to a private school and paid that kind of money and been way over my head. [Carroll] just seemed less intimidating."
Martha O'Connell, director of admissions at Western Maryland, said the agreement also allows students to indicate early that they might be interested in transferring to her school.
"We will have a way to identify students at an earlier stage who are interested in transferring to Western Maryland. There are a lot of students who consider Western Maryland too expensive an option and feel that their only alternative is a state school," she said.
"This way we can show them that we can be an affordable liberal arts college and that 80 percent of our students receive financial aid."
The agreement also allows for early contact with advisers at the four-year schools. Mr. Blizzard made that contact on his own.
"I knew in advance to plan it out that way," Mr. Blizzard said. Soon after he graduated from high school, he met with a Western Maryland College adviser to find out what courses at Carroll would transfer. He took only those courses, which meant he did not enroll in some that would have allowed him to get an associate of arts degree from Carroll Community College.
But he can work on that later, he said, and it may be as simple as taking a speech course at Carroll or Western Maryland.
For Carroll College, the arrangement is another measure of credibility and standing in the academic world.
Dr. Shields said recent surveys show that 62 percent of all high school seniors graduating in the state are attending community colleges.
"The reality is that most people are choosing community college as their first choices," he said.
The college also has technical, computer and general courses that the other colleges may not have, he said. Students at those schools will be able to take a course at Carroll Community College.