HCC and FHSU forge partnership to expand students' chances for success

The path from an associate's degree to a university degree and then on to a successful career just became easier for students at Hutchinson Community College and Area Vocational School.

Dr. Edward E. Berger, HCC president, and Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, conducted a joint news conference this morning to announce a partnership between their schools. The news conference included a signing ceremony for a Memorandum of Agreement that will allow students to make an almost seamless transition from a two-year degree to a four-year degree.

"A college education opens the door to career advancement and better pay, not to mention a sense of personal accomplishment," President Berger said during the news conference on the HCC campus. "However, as a working adult with job responsibilities, family commitments and other obligations, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to reach educational goals. For many, online education is a great option. This new partnership, called 'Expanding Success,' will help students manage their higher education goals."

Berger said both HCC and FHSU would assign an advisor to each student in the new program, which is open to prospective HCC students, current HCC students and HCC graduates. While geared primarily for online students who wish to advance from an associate degree at HCC to a bachelor's degree and possibly a master's degree at FHSU, the Expanding Success program is also open to students who wish to enroll in on-campus classes.

Expanding Success brings together two schools that are leaders in accredited online education, not only in the state of Kansas but in the entire region.

"From our campus in Hays, FHSU's Virtual College has made higher education available across the world," President Hammond said. "While the majority of our 5,155 online students are Kansans, they also include students from most of the 50 states and more than 2,000 students in China. We offer classes and degrees that are accredited, taught largely by our full-time faculty and surprisingly affordable."

A Kansas resident pays only $148 in tuition and fees for one hour of online undergraduate study at FHSU, compared to at least $187.50 at Kansas State, more than $165 at Emporia State, $194.80 at the University of Kansas, $164 at Pittsburg State, $238 at Washburn, $570 at Friends and $589 at Newman. "Our tuition of $148 is also vastly lower than the range of $300 to $494 an hour charged by the for-profit University of Phoenix," President Hammond added. "It's no wonder our online enrollment has almost tripled from 1,890 students five years ago."

Like FHSU, HCC has a thriving online program. With a full-time enrollment of about 8,000, about a quarter of the credit hours are completed online. The cost of online classes at HCC is $63 an hour for regular in-state students, plus an additional $40 per class.

There is no cost for participating in the Expanding Success program. Anyone who is interested can sign up by going on the Web at www.expandingsuccess.net.

Once a student has submitted an online inquiry form, a program coordinator will contact the student about his or her desired degree program. Advisors from HCC and FHSU will work together to establish a specific program of study to take the student from an associate's degree at HCC through a bachelor's degree and even a master's degree at FHSU. The Expanding Success program ensures that students take only the courses they need. If degree requirements change after a student has started a program of study at HCC, FHSU will honor the old program for six years.

Also, after completing an associate's degree at HCC, a student can request a one-time free submission of his or her transcript to FHSU.

The Expanding Success program offers degrees in business, education, information technology, nursing and the social sciences.

Under the Memorandum of Agreement, FHSU will host, maintain and support the www.expandingsuccess.net Web site, fund the cost to provide advertising and marketing materials to HCC students up to $2,500 a year, maintain and support the email marketing tool and database of students participating in the program, provide advising to current HCC students who are seeking to enroll at FHSU, and guarantee program requirements to current HCC students and future FHSU students as appropriate. HCC will identify a counselor/academic advisor as a point of contact for FHSU regarding the program and provide a one-time transcript fee waiver to students enrolling at FHSU.

President Hammond said that in addition to their expertise in online education, the two schools were drawn together by their participation in an innovative approach to accreditation.

"Both schools are accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools under a new format called the Academic Quality Improvement Project," President Hammond said. "Accreditation is important because it is used to assure students and the public-at-large that a university meets established standards of learning and allows educational institutions to accept grades, courses and degrees from other schools with the assurance that they have met the same standards of quality."

Under the traditional accreditation system, schools undergo a lengthy review process every 10 years that basically determines that they have not fallen below certain minimum performance standards. AQIP takes an entirely different approach. It identifies areas for improvement and sets measurable goals on a continuing basis.

"In that way," President Hammond said, "the accreditation process becomes a useful tool for promoting improvements in academic performance. Students who participate in the Expanding Success program can be confident that the education offered by HCC and FHSU is not only affordable but of the highest quality."

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu