AUSTIN (KXAN) — A program to offer community college students a private school degree at a much cheaper rate was announced Wednesday by Austin Community College District and Concordia University Texas.
With this program ACC students would attend community college for three years then Concordia University for one year, graduating with an Associate of Applied Science degree from ACC and a Bachelor’s of Applied Arts and Sciences from Concordia. Students in this program will study business with an emphasis in management.
Students will pay Austin Community College tuition and fees for the first three years, totaling to $7,650. Then for their final 37 hours in the program they will pay Concordia’s tuition and fees which amount to $17,320. The total tuition for four years would amount to $24,970, not accounting for transportation or housing.
Richard Rhodes, Ph.D., President of Austin Community College, said that most of his 43,000 current students would qualify for the program. Rhodes explained that nearly half of his students express interest in a bachelor’s degree, but many find that the hours of technical credits they earn studying things like welding or auto-mechanics may not transfer to another school.
That was the case for Christie Krause, an ACC student of five years who began looking into bachelor’s programs after she grew interested in owning a beauty salon.
“I was going to have to start as a freshman and it was gonna take me minimum three and a half or four years to complete a bachelors. With as much time as I’ve put into my associate’s [degree], it was very discouraging to be starting all over,” Krause said.
But the ACC-Concordia program transfers credits directly, allowing students to graduate in four years. Visiting Concordia professors will also teach at ACC, so that ACC students can complete their degree at whichever location their home campus is.
“One of the great things about partnerships like this is that it helps to make college accessible, affordable and able to complete in a timely manner,” said Donald Christian, Ph.D., President and CEO of Concordia University Texas. “That is such a need for this region.”Christian expressed concern about the rising cost of higher education in Texas, especially considering the debt that students incur.
Conversations like these about the role of community colleges in affordability are happening statewide. In fact, Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, filed a bill in the Texas Senate which would allow junior colleges to offer certain four-year degrees. A companion bill has been filed in the Texas House as well.
Rhodes said that this bill would allow ACC to offer a bachelor’s of nursing program. He sees the Concordia-ACC partnership as part of a statewide movement for expanding the degree offerings at community colleges.
For Krause, she will graduate from ACC in May and then plans to continue with Concordia this summer. With the Concordia partnership program she will be able to do so while achieving her goal of not incurring any student debt.
“I didn’t believe I would be able to graduate college anyways growing up, and having this opportunity and being one of the first students in the program is very exciting to me” she said.