For the first time, the seven public universities in the Minnesota State system will offer guaranteed admission to students who earn a two-year degree at one of the state's community colleges.

The new guarantee was announced Wednesday by Steven Rosenstone, Minnesota State's chancellor.

To qualify, students must complete an associate degree and a list of required courses with a grade-point average of 2.0 (although Winona State University will require a 2.4 average), Rosenstone said.

Until now, the four-year universities had no single standard for accepting students from the system's own two-year colleges. Now, Rosenstone said, "We're working together as one team."

Anyone who meets the requirements will be able to transfer to any four-year Minnesota State university, and enter as a junior.

Rosenstone said this is part of an ongoing strategy to make it easier for community-college students to complete a bachelor's degree. It's also a way for students to save money, he noted, because the tuition rates are "between one-half and one-tenth the cost of other higher education options in Minnesota." Annual tuition is about $4,800 at Minnesota State's two-year colleges, and $7,000 at its four-year universities.

The guarantee will apply to graduates of 26 community colleges seeking to attend Bemidji State, Metropolitan State, Southwest Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and Winona State universities, as well as the Minnesota State Universities at Mankato and Moorhead.

It's not, however, the only such program in the state.

Augsburg College, a private liberal arts school in Minneapolis, also has a guaranteed admissions program for graduates of three community colleges: Normandale, St. Paul College and Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384