- Inside Higher Ed reports on two private four-year institutions — the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and Yeshiva University in New York — which have launched associate degree programs in an effort to extend college access to low-income students in their respective areas.
- The programs will offer affordable access to full-time enrollment with intrusive elements of advisement and skill building in preparation for advancing to a four-year degree track.
- Yeshiva Graduate and Professional Studies Dean Paul Russo told Inside Higher Ed the aim is to reach students who "haven't hit their stride yet" and encourage completion.
There has been much conversation in higher ed circles about reverse credentialing — looking at students who did not graduate with a bachelor's degree and awarding associate degrees if they have earned enough credits for the two-year degree. This is not only a simple tactic to show students a pathway to completion; it is a smart way to boost completion rates for an institution, in an increasingly metrics-driven climate.
The associate offerings at private institutions, pending clearance from respective accrediting bodies, is an extension of the traditional articulation agreement between four-year schools and local community colleges and high schools. Many of these initiatives allow students to take classes on campus for limited credits, allow them to participate in student activities, and give access to certain advisement leading to matriculation.
When financed with appropriate support for scholarships and mentoring of at-risk students, these programs can be a model for the future of higher education access for vulnerable students and communities. But without the support, they are merely a good face adds more volume to the growing discussion over how to provide academic and financial mobility to the communities and families which need them most.