3+1 Degrees Save Students Money, Add Convenience

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3+1 Program

Save money, save time and get a degree with a 3+1 program. Today, many states, including Illinois, allow community colleges to confer bachelor degrees through innovative partnerships with four-year schools.

"It's really a collaboration between a local university or a distance learning university and a community college," says Beth Hagan, executive director, Community College Baccalaureate Association. Students complete three years of coursework at a community college, and their final year is taught by a partner university, either at the community college campus or online.

Instead of the traditional 2+2 program, where you attend a community college for two years than finish up at a university for two years, with 3+1 students pay community college tuition for the first three years and typically get a discounted tuition from the partner university for the last year.

Several area universities have partnered with College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn to offer this innovative way to higher education, including Lewis, Benedictine, Concordia, Governors State, and Roosevelt. In all, COD has 22 associate degree programs that feed into 12 bachelor's degrees in its 3+1.

Universities have realized that students with a variety of educational backgrounds want bachelor's degrees, says Linda Uzureau at the community college partnerships office at Governors State University, which has 3+1 agreements with 17 community colleges across Illinois. Schools are looking at the skills and education students already have and are building bachelor's degrees specifically designed for these students, Uzureau adds.

Benedictine University signed a 3+1 option with COD for its Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree Completion program in summer 2012. The BSN has proven to be a sought after degree for the Lisle university.

"The BSN is a popular degree because health care agencies seek the valued added for patient care by the registered nurse with a BSN," said Joan Libner, RN to BSN Program Director at Benedictine. "Many health care agencies demonstrate a preference in hiring the RN with a BSN over one with the associate degree. Community college nursing programs commonly encourage their prospective and enrolled students to include BSN completion in their career planning," she added.

COD students first complete the specified associate degree — depending on which 3+1 program they are pursuing, says Jean Kartje, vice president for academic affairs at COD.

"Upon completion of the associate degree, they remain at COD for an additional year of coursework at the college's tuition rate," she said. The school then works with the partner university to ensure a seamless transfer of all coursework.

"The university partner offers the final year of coursework at College of DuPage with a reduced tuition rate," she added. "This upper-division coursework is taught by the university partner's faculty on the COD campus."

Kartje says criminal justice and nursing are popular courses of study, which aligns with industry and educational trends. "A new partnership leading to a Bachelor of Arts in Healthcare Management from Concordia University Chicago is already growing in popularity in just a short time," she said.

Experts agree that 3+1 programs are win/win for students, colleges and states. "The benefits from a cost-efficiency standpoint are definitely of interest," said Jennifer Engle, vice president for policy research, Institute for Higher Education Policy. She said 3+1 programs stand to increase the number of bachelor's degrees bestowed while reducing the cost of those degrees to both students and states.

Joseph Johnson of Carol Stream and Francisco Castillo of Villa Park are both in the COD/Lewis University 3+1 program seeking a degree in criminal/social justice. When Johnson found out about 3+1 from a teacher, he knew immediately it was right for him and he urges others to consider it.

"The benefits for me are having great professors from both College of DuPage and Lewis University, living at home, the cost, and getting educated with great courses," he said. "If you want to pay less for a bachelor's degree do the 3+1. You won't be paying off debt for the rest of your life."

Castillo hopes to go into the law enforcement field once he graduates in 2015. He sees several benefits to the 3+1.

"The schedule is very flexible," he said. "It is a huge money saver, there's no extra commuting, and they have great teachers that are ready to help and are very jubilant." His advice to others contemplating a 3+1 degree is: "Whenever an opportunity like this arises, take it and run! You end up getting the exact same degree, but at an extremely discounted price."

Kelli Jones earned her bachelor's degree in Hospitality Management and became one of the first students to take advantage of COD's 3+1 agreement with Roosevelt University.

"What I loved about the program was the hands-on experience," she said. "I was physically doing tasks that I would be doing every day working in the industry." Robert Breuder, president of COD, chairs a commission that is studying the baccalaureate movement nationally and will make a recommendation on how to proceed to the full Illinois Council of Community College Presidents this fall. "Two-year schools offering bachelor's degrees is a national movement that will continue to gain momentum," said Breuder. "We're talking about meeting the needs of students and businesses in our community that are not being met."

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