A new model of higher ed in Lane County

As published in The Register Guard on December 3, 2018.

Students who attend Lane Community College will soon have new opportunities to earn a four-year degree and more, thanks to promising new agreements forged by their school with Northwest Christian University and Oregon State University.

The partnerships, similar to programs in California, New York and other states, will open doors for Lane students who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to pursue a bachelor’s degree because of tuition costs and commitments to jobs or family.

Next year, students who want to earn a bachelor’s in general business from Oregon State’s College of Business will be able to do so in as little as three years by attending classes at Lane for two years, then transferring to the university for their final year.

The opportunities are even broader at NCU. Beginning in January, students with an associate degree from LCC can enroll in upper level classes in nursing, psychology, music and business at NCU. Students with an associate of arts Oregon transfer degree will be able to pursue a bachelor’s in any major at NCU.

Instead of the three Rs, call it the three As: Affordability, Accessibility and Attainability. Students for whom higher education might seem impossibly far away and expensive now have a path to a four-year degree.

NCU President Joseph Womack said the university wants to remove obstacles for LCC students, who sometimes found their lower-level courses didn’t meet requirements to earn transfer credits at NCU. “Why are courses that are essentially the same not treated as such?” Womack said. “It’s really just stupid, and it is unnecessarily costly for students.”

By aligning standards, NCU and LCC officials have enabled students to move seamlessly between the schools at a fraction of the tuition they would have paid for four years at the private university. NCU is a winner in the deal, too, reaching LCC students who wouldn’t have been able to afford to continue their education.

LCC guidance counselors will help students plan their classes so that they can transfer. They’ll have maps ready that align with student goals. Want a four-year degree in nursing? Here’s what you need to do. How about a master’s degree? Here are the attainable steps to take you from enrollment to completion.

The presidents of NCU and LCC have pledged to track the results of the program, including costs, to ensure the goal of broadening opportunities is being met.

The partnership is a natural fit. About one-quarter of NCU students already have at least some LCC credits, and as NCU spokesman Pat Walsh points out, the schools share a common mission of educating the region’s workforce.

University of Oregon officials should set up a similar pathway for LCC students, who often face difficulty transferring credits. That makes little sense, especially when professors with a master’s degree or PhD teach lower-level courses at LCC but 101 classes at UO may often feature grad students at the lectern.

A student’s success reflects on the schools they attend — and ultimately benefits the communities in which we all live. Lane County is fortunate to have higher education leaders willing to implement novel solutions for more students.

Source: A new model of higher ed in Lane County.

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