Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Earning a Bachelor’s Degree Without Leaving SLCC

Sometimes life — family, mortgage, career — gets in the way of finishing a bachelor’s degree. It did for Josh Schreiber, 36, a father of three and an insurance broker who in 2017 expects to finally graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. The best part for Schreiber is he’s taking all his classes without having to visit any school other than SLCC.

“At the end of the day, it’s a lifelong goal,” says Schreiber, whose degree will be from Utah State University. Schreiber says getting admitted to the USU Jon M. Huntsman School of Business was easy for him. He filled out an online application, qualified academically, paid USU and began taking USU-administered classes at SLCC.

Josh Schreiber

He’s one of hundreds who benefit from SLCC’s university partnerships that offer bachelor’s degree programs through SLCC campuses. The College has partnerships with USU, Utah Valley University and Weber State University for bachelor’s degree tracks at SLCC that include technology, health sciences, business, criminal justice, communication and more. Students have to be admitted to the universities that are offering the degrees and pay the tuition rates set by those schools. The courses are taught by professors from the four-year institutions and are available online and in the evenings to accommodate the busy schedules of nontraditional students.

Solid direction
Having guidance along the way has been helpful for Leena Sombath, 24, who works in South Jordan. “I always get ‘check-in’ emails from my advisors to meet with them and see how things are going, or I am voluntarily active in scheduling meetings myself in order to see what I should do or if I have questions,” says Sombath, a USU student studying business administration through SLCC. “It has always taken stress off of me being able to meet whenever I need some advice.”

Leena Sombath

Ted Cowan, who graduated in 1979 from Utah Technical College (now SLCC) with an associate's degree in data processing, is Weber State’s program coordinator and advisor for that university's computer science program offered at SLCC, and he has also been a computer science instructor for both schools. “Our typical SLCC computer science student is usually working in the field and needing to complete a bachelor’s degree to either keep a job or progress up the career ladder,” says Cowan, who later earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and then an MBA. 

Ted Cowan

“Government statistics show that the salaries for a software engineer are much higher than engineers with just an associate's," Cowan says. "When the market is strong, anyone can get a job. When the job market has a downturn, it becomes much more difficult for an associate's degree holder to even get an interview." His students love the flexible night and online classes. "They are usually more experienced and a bit older than your typical first year freshman, but I don't get them until they have completed their lower division computer science classes and general education courses at SLCC.”

Growing program
The University Partnerships department has evolved since the early 1990s to offer eight bachelor’s degree programs with courses taught at SLCC and online, using SLCC and partner institution resources. For the spring 2016 semester, more than 240 students were enrolled in classes being taught at SLCC’s Miller, Jordan and Taylorsville Redwood campuses. Planning is underway to offer a bachelor’s program in construction management through WSU by summer 2017.

“The benefit is our students can work, study and live all in one place,” says Daysi Hernandez, SLCC University Partnerships coordinator. Students can meet with a program advisor at SLCC or an in-house partner advisor and map out classes they should take at SLCC that will transfer into the baccalaureate program of choice, she says. “The students have an almost seamless transition from an associate degree to a bachelor’s program of study."

Making it easy
The value of convenience cannot be overstated for USU business major and senior Erica Lewis, 31, who works for Rio Tinto as a project procurement advisor. “I currently work more than full time most weeks, have a husband and a son, and I’m eight months pregnant,” Lewis said in March. “I’ve been able to go to classes without any issues for the first part of my pregnancy, and this semester I opted for all online courses to complete from home.”

Erica Lewis

She entered into the accelerated business program through SLCC after finishing her general education courses for an associate’s degree. “This is a vigorous program where you take three to four classes in 10 weeks, two nights a week for 14 months,” Lewis says. “The program advertised a smooth transition to the Utah State extension in order to complete your bachelor’s degree.” She was sold on the program. Her only glitch was that classes fill up in about 15 minutes (she registers with two computers at once).

And she has almost completely outsourced to technology her guidance toward a clear academic path. “My best friend is DegreeWorks,” she says. “I’m not sure how anyone went to school without it. I have a great academic advisor who is very responsive through email, but I rarely need him with the DegreeWorks tool. This online tool shows you how far along you are in your degree and what credits you still need.”

Personalized education
SLCC Advisor Lee Martinez says students ask him every week about the bachelor’s degree programs, when and where they’re offered and how much they cost. He’s able to tell them that class sizes at SLCC are smaller, with more access to instructors resulting in a more personalized education. For the USU business degree, two classrooms are used at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus — one to teach a course that broadcasts off campus to students with internet access, and the other for students to use for courses that originate elsewhere in Utah but are broadcast to that room at SLCC.

“The USU business degree presents a tremendous opportunity for students to complete a bachelor’s degree without incurring any significant inconvenience by needing to relocate,” says Dennis Bromley, SLCC dean for the School of Business. “It’s a high-quality degree similar to what they would earn if they attended on-site in Logan.”

Jose Jara, 37, decided to pursue a more stable income after working 15 years for five different companies as a mortgage underwriter; currently he’s a software developer for a local company. The idea of earning a bachelor’s degree while at SLCC began to percolate for Jara after seeing advertisements around campus and then talking to teachers and an academic advisor, who doubles as one of his instructors. He also likes that the Taylorsville Redwood Campus is close to home. “It’s been a great experience for me and very accommodating for a full-time worker,” Jara says. “The quality of the classes is good, which I attribute to the size of the classes. I really like that I don’t have to travel too far to go to class. I’ve been coming to SLCC my entire college career — same campus, close to home.” Jara expects to have his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Weber State by December.


Jose Jara