Students pursuing studies in psychology, agriculture and marketing at Lake Superior College in Duluth will soon have the option to obtain four-year degrees without having to leave the community college.
In the fall, LSC and Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, both part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, will launch a partnership that will deliver bachelor's degree programs at LSC for the first time.
"It's wonderful for our students, and frankly, for our community in our region," LSC President Patricia Rogers said. "Because what agreements like this do is build our enrollment, our local population tax base and help further address workforce needs and opportunities."
Students who earn two-year degrees in any of those three areas have the benefit of being "seamlessly" admitted directly into the partnering SMSU program, Rogers said.
Rogers highlighted LSC's eco-entrepreneurship program, which is in its second semester of existence. Currently, 23 students have committed to the program, which focuses on sustainable food and energy systems.
"What we're finding is that enrollment is growing in this program very rapidly and we're talking with students who are excited about it," Rogers said. "They’re coming from all over the region."
Hanna Erpestad, LSC interim vice president of academic and student affairs, said the three programs that will be first to participate in the partnership were selected based on a strong alignment between the two schools. The programs include community psychology and health promotion, agriculture solutions and marketing.
"Those are ... programs that have some unique qualities, like the eco-entrepreneurship program to the agricultural solutions," Erpestad said. "Those are two very unique programs and combined, those two will provide us a very interesting opportunity and intriguing opportunity that we think will be very appealing to students and really meet their needs."
The bachelor's degrees will be taught online and on-site, as well as through hybrid courses mixing both. Teri Wallace, SMSU interim provost and vice president of academic and student affairs, said the four-year degree classes will mostly be taught by SMSU faculty.
The university will develop a presence on LSC's campus to include a dedicated space and a set amount of time SMSU faculty will spend at the college, though the two schools are still sorting out many details.
"The focus really is on student success and student connection," Wallace said.
The two schools have also started conversations surrounding how bachelor's degree-seeking students will use support services such as financial aid and advising services, Erpestad said.
"There will be some differences between how things are done at the university level versus at the two-year college level," Erpestad said, "but we are ensuring that the transition is as seamless as possible."
According to a report using 2003-04 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, students transferring between post-secondary institutions lost an average of 13 credits in the process of their first transfer, pointing to a need for smoother transitions between two-year and four-year institutions especially.
Partnerships similar to that of SMSU and LSC exist around the nation, said SMSU President Kumara Jayasuriya. What makes theirs unique is the added incentive for both campuses to succeed in the project.
"So that means if we have a certain number of students, we will share tuition revenue with LSC," Jayasuriya said. "Not only is it a win-win situation, it’s a win-win-win situation because SMSU, LSC and the students are winners in this partnership."
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System includes 30 colleges and seven universities. In November, LSC announced a different partnership with Minnesota State University, Mankato to provide an easy transfer for LSC's aviation students seeking a four-year program.