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A group of students stands behind a sign reading "Fairfield University Bellarmine Campus"

Fairfield University welcomed its first cohort of students to its two-year degree program, Fairfield Bellarmine, this fall.

Fairfield University 

Starting this fall, Fairfield University and Albertus Magnus College are partnering to provide transfer opportunities for associate degree seekers in the Fairfield Bellarmine program, targeted at disadvantaged students in neighboring Bridgeport, Conn.

The degree pathway is one of what officials hope will be an effort by a growing number of universities with similar mission and rigor to serve local learners who may not otherwise earn a four-year degree.

“Expanding access and opportunity creates more pathways to bachelor’s degrees in higher education for our students who might face obstacles in achieving that goal,” says Kevin O’Brien, Fairfield Bellarmine vice provost and executive director.

Fairfield Bellarmine launches: Fairfield welcomed its first cohort of 44 Fairfield Bellarmine students on Sept. 5. The university initially faced pushback from the Bridgeport community over the first intended location, but the new campus opened its doors this fall a few miles away at a former church.

Students enrolled in Bellarmine can earn an associate degree in business, computer science, health sciences or liberal arts.

To be eligible for the program, a student must be a recent high school graduate from the greater Bridgeport area or a surrounding Connecticut community, have a 2.5 high school GPA and have a demonstrated high level of financial need.

“The ideal candidate is ambitious, driven to attend college and eager to benefit from Fairfield Bellarmine’s personal, academic and career support programs,” according to the university’s website.

Students submit a free application; high school transcript; a response to one of four prompts as an essay, a video or creative project; a letter of recommendation; and a FAFSA form to be considered.

Fairfield Bellarmine tuition and fees total $12,000 for the academic year, about 22 percent of Fairfield University’s tuition, with an estimated $28,254 in indirect costs, according to the program’s website. The university notes that, based on Bellarmine and FAFSA aid, a student should not have to pay more than $1,000 a year.

A new chapter: Fairfield Bellarmine students can matriculate into a four-year degree program at the university with junior status, so long as they maintain a 2.0 GPA. Under the new partnership, transfer to Albertus Magnus is another option.

Albertus Magnus will honor up to 64 credits applied toward a relevant degree, and students will be considered for financial aid and scholarships, including merit scholarships, O’Brien says.

Fairfield plans to admit up to 35 students per year into a four-year degree program on a full scholarship.

Next steps: Leaders at Fairfield are in active conversations with other universities in the region to create additional transfer pathways, O’Brien says.

In addition, the university is creating partnerships with corporate and nonprofit groups for students looking to go into the workforce after finishing at Fairfield Bellarmine to offer internship and employment opportunities.

Fairfield Bellarmine officials are actively recruiting a second cohort of students for fall 2024, with a target of 100 students per cohort.

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