Community College to Introduce One-Year Associate's Degree
by Agnes Jasinski
Several four-year colleges are already looking into offering accelerated three-year programs, either to bring more revenue into their schools or to offer an official path for students already working to complete their degrees under the traditional four years. Associate’s programs have always been an alternative for students looking for lower-cost options in specific fields and disciplines, and typically take two or more years to complete. One school, however, will launch an accelerated version of the typically two-year program, giving the students the option of receiving a degree in one year flat.
Starting this fall, Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana will offer a pilot program to students interested in completing degrees in health-care support in just one year. Students must commit to an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. school week, five days a week, but in exchange, the cost of the program and any associated tuition and fees will be covered by the college. The fifth day in that school week will be reserved for fields trips, more experiential activities, or additional class time if certain instructors need it.
According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the program, this is the first community college in the country to offer an accelerated associate’s degree. The project was made possible by more than $2.5 million in grants from the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, and aims to address low degree-completion and retention rates among low-income students. Only about 25 percent of students who enter associate’s degree programs graduate with that two-year degree, according to The Chronicle.
Is it really possible to squeeze all of that instruction into one year? Ivy Tech administrators say yes. The students who were welcomed into the program for the fall were determined to be “college-ready” by guidance counselors and faculty and staff at the college, based on their academic achievements in college and any relevant test scores and records. Students will be divided into cohorts of between 12 to 20 students, and will receive condensed instruction where they are expected to synthesize quite a bit of information at one time. All of the students will be receiving financial aid. In fact, they must be in need of financial aid to enter into the program, as one of the aims of the program is to improve the success rates of low-income student populations.
According to The Chronicle, a number of technology centers in Tennessee have been experimenting with accelerated certificate programs, although they do not award associate’s degrees in any fields of study. Proponents of acceleration say programs like the one at Ivy Tech are especially useful in areas with competitive job markets or high numbers of unemployment workers who need new skills; graduates are able to get back out into the workforce with new skills in less time than before. What do you think? Is one year too little time to get a degree? Should four-year colleges look to accelerate programs even further?