Harford Community College is promising to refund the tuition of any credits that four-year institutions refuse to accept as transfer credits.
That offer is the first such guarantee from any two-year college in the state, HCC administrators say.
Community college administrators announced the policy last week, saying that it will start this fall.
Students whose HCC credits are rejected by another college could either seek a full refund or take another class for free.
The new policy is considered important because more than 60 percent of the students now enrolled at HCC plan to transfer to another school to get a baccalaureate degree, said Fran Turcott, college spokeswoman.
HCC offers two-year associate of arts degrees.
There are a few catches to the new policy.
Students must meet with an HCC adviser and decide -- in writing -- what major and degree they ultimately seeking and which four-year institution they plan to enroll in after they complete their studies at HCC, said James A. Quigg, HCC's coordinator of academic advising.
Students who change their minds about their major or the school they plan to move on to will not be eligible for the refund.
"This forces students to make decisions about their goals at the beginning of their studies here," said Quigg.
Students who want to take advantage of the refund, called a Guaranteed Transfer Agreement, would meet with an adviser each semester before registering for HCC classes.
Quigg said in many cases HCC can modify its programs of study to fit the transfer requirements at another school.
A general studies major, for example, could be tailored to include credits that would be transferable to a wide variety of four-year programs, including science and math, Quigg said.
The transferability of credits among college institutions in Maryland is tracked by a computer program of the University of Maryland System.
The system, called ARTSYS, monitors credit transferability among more than 10 four-year public colleges and the state's community colleges.
Students and advisers can use the computer program to compare the courses they plan to take or have taken with the requirements of participating schools.
As an example, Quigg noted that basic English classes are generally accepted by all of the participating institutions.
But a history class that is considered a humanities elective at one school might be considered a social studies elective at another.
In the past, community college students have sometimes found, to their sorrow, that many credits didn't transfer to a four-year program.
This means they have had to take similar classes over in order to fulfill the four-year institution's graduation requirements, said Jeff Welsh, public information officer for the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
He said the computer program forced four-year colleges and universities to compare freshman and sophomore courses offered by community colleges with their own.
"This also helped to lay to rest the residual feeling that what community colleges were doing was not not up to par, and that is not true," Welsh said.
"Community colleges are every bit as good offering the first two years as are four-year institutions, both public and private."
Bill Reinhard, assistant vice president for communication for the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges, said its unclear how many two-year colleges have begun transfer accountability programs.
"One of the difficulties with these programs is getting the necessary people together to agree on curriculums and textbooks and agree on standards," he said.
With more than half of all first-time, full-time freshmen enrolled at community colleges it behooves educational institutions to work together, he said.