By LAUREN GENTILE
Capital News Service
LANSING – Many students are finding a new way to get a four-year degree for a lower cost through degree completion programs at their local community colleges.
“Degree completion or transfer programs are run by a community college with the help of a four-year institution,” Michael Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association, said. “Most programs are either two or three years at the community college, then one at the university.”
Campuses all over the state have partnered with colleges to make “big university dreams” come true at an affordable rate, Hansen said.
“These programs allow students to pay the community college tuition rate, sometimes for up to 90 credits,” he said.
For example, Macomb Community College worked with Oakland University to create the state’s first concurrent enrollment program.
“Originally this program started because the state of Michigan encouraged universities to partner with community colleges,” Jennifer Janes, Oakland’s community college partnership coordinator, said.
Macomb also has partnerships with Wayne State, Michigan State, Madonna, Central Michigan, Ferris State and Northwood unviersities, Rochester College, University of Detroit Mercy and Walsh College.
Oakland University also has a concurrent enrollment program with Oakland, Mott and St. Clair community colleges.
The Oakland-affiliated programs have about 900 participants and are growing each semester, Janes said.
“This gives the student the total four-year experience,” Janes said. “They have access to all Oakland University resources like on-campus housing, athletics and student organizations if they want it.”
Lansing Community College (LCC) works with six universities: Ferris State, Lawrence Tech, Siena Heights, Western Michigan, University of Michigan-Flint and Northwood.
“This is a way for people who don’t have financial access to the big schools to still get a great university education,” said Karen Parker of the LCC registrar’s office.
Most students who finish a degree-completion or transfer program through LCC graduate with both an associate and a bachelor’s degree.
Siena Heights University’s assistant director at LCC, Amy Keel, said the program creates a seamless transition.
“The premise is to help there be the easiest transition possible,” Keel said. “We work with the student every step of the way.
“We offer personal advising, small class sizes and everything that a big university would in a much smaller condensed mini-campus in the University Center at LCC,” Keel said.
Its program at LCC has around 170 registered students, said Regional Director Lesley Weidner.
“There is always a large interest in the program,” she said. “They never have to leave Lansing, but still get the same degree any other Siena Heights student would.”
Why are such programs popular?
Money is major reason.
Keel said students who attend Siena Heights often borrow $20,000 a year. “With the degree completion program, they can usually complete their entire degree for that amount or less.”
LCC in-district students pay $81 per credit, while Siena Heights students pay $425 per credit.
LCC nursing student Kayla Knudsen plans to take advantage of the program and obtain her registered nurse certification with the bachelor’s of science in nursing degree with the U-M-Flint.
“Once I get my prerequisites out of the way, I’ll be able get a U-M degree here in Lansing without ever leaving home,” she said.
Knudsen said there are many advantages to the program.
“My adviser is here on campus all the time and can help me tailor my schedule to what I need, whether it be night classes or online classes. They’re always here to help me make the right choices.”
By LAUREN GENTILE