By M. M. DONALDSON
Community college is usually considered a steppingstone to a four-year college or university that offers advanced degrees.
But when a student’s life is rooted in the community surrounding the college, transferring elsewhere for a degree doesn’t make sense.
Until this summer, Washtenaw Community College Business Management student Becky Alliston, 69, never considered going to Ferris State University an option for her education. She was not necessarily looking to complete a bachelor’s degree, until FSU partnered with WCC to bring classes to her community.
Late this summer, FSU and WCC finalized a collaborative agreement to offer a FSU bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with Professional Tracks to WCC students.
It is the inaugural university partnership and program for WCC’s University Center, according to Interim Vice President of Instruction Bill Abernethy in an interview with The Washtenaw Voice in March. <LINK FOR CHRISTINA archive.washtenawvoice.com/2014/03/new-agreements-to-offer-students-four-year-degrees-at-wcc/>
This is part of WCC’s strategic plan to create university partnerships, Vice President of Student and Academic Services Linda Blakey said. Students interested in the program will need to apply to FSU directly.
The arrangement is considered a 3+1 program, which allows for three years to be taken at WCC and one year through FSU.
It is different from the MACRO or the Michigan Transfer Agreement, which allows students to transfer up to 30 general education credits.
With the 3+1 program, students would earn 48 credits from WCC, at which point they can start with FSU and be dually enrolled, according to Justin Faris, FSU off-campus coordinator for the Capital and Central Region.
The University Center arrangement allows 30 credits to be taken at the FSU tuition rate, but they do not have to be taken all at once.
This allows for a gradual blending of student financial costs for tuition between the two colleges, Faris said. Once FSU accepts a student for the business program, financial aid is routed through FSU. Students are instructed to pay their WCC tuition balance from the financial aid refund from FSU.
The gradual blending of classes through WCC and more intense classes through FSU also allows students to adjust to the workload and have a flexible schedule that works with their career and family.
The FSU classes will be online until there is more interest, and there is an interest for face-to-face instruction, Faris said.
Alliston was one of the first students to apply for this University Center program after reading an article in a spring issue of The Washtenaw Voice, where she works as the advertising manager. She had looked at other local colleges to transfer to, but felt the opportunity with Ferris was the best fit for her.
She had started classes at WCC more than three years ago, after her employer eliminated her position, but she was not ready to retire.
Needing the skills to create an event planning company with her daughter, she started in the culinary arts program, but moved to business management as a better choice for their goals.
Blakey said that FSU at WCC is an opportunity for students who live locally who want more options than the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University or Concordia University.
“This really caters to non-traditional students,” Faris said. Not having to relocate for school can help alleviate some of the costs of college for some students who know they financially cannot move to FSU. For others, they want to stay home because they have a job and a family.
Faris is pleased that a few students have already enrolled for fall classes through this agreement without any marketing to promote FSU at WCC. He estimates three students have applied through the University Center, but FSU will tally the official count after the WCC drop date.
Blakey stressed that the University Center program is in its first semester and it remains a work in progress.
Faris described how the Business Administration with Professional Tracks made the most sense to start the partnership with WCC. The degree is appropriate for those who might be pursuing culinary, accounting or finance and want the experience of business administration classes, human resources and finance.
The FSU marketing team will work with WCC to develop marketing strategies to get the word out, using email blasts and postcards to let students know about the 3+1 program. Faris said it is also likely to be involved in college fairs, but to promote the University Center, “we like to do things bigger than just a table.”
He envisions a tent with games, T-shirts and more information to resources online for students to find out more about FSU.
Faris said FSU wants to see how many students are interested in the various programs it offers and what WCC would be able to support, but with the main goal to get students enrolled.
He said the college will be recruiting at WCC during the fall and be available to answer questions for students. Blakey speculated that a FSU adviser would be available on the WCC campus once a month to answer questions.
Alliston felt she had a better opportunity with FSU than any other college, especially if she could stay at WCC.
“I can’t up my life and move,” she said.