This story first appeared in the fall 2019 issue of the Arbor Light, the official magazine of Concordia University Ann Arbor.
While there are plenty of reasons not to rush through one’s collegiate experience, the benefits of an early walk across the commencement stage also cannot be denied.
As a Lutheran higher education community, Concordia’s commitment to helping students develop in “mind, body, and spirit for service to Christ in the Church and world” also extends to helping students be good stewards of their time and financial resources. Even before questions began to swirl within the national discourse about the cost and value of higher education, Concordia was working to thoughtfully respond to the needs and desires of its learners.
Within the past few decades, Concordia has piloted multiple programs that remain today. These programs have been strategically designed to allow more flexibility or greater cost savings, and, in some cases, early graduation—without sacrificing the educational caliber the job market demands.
For those motivated students who know early on what they’re called to do, and are ambitious enough to make it happen in as few years as possible, Concordia offers a few attractive options.
Mason Trowbridge is the envy of his friend group when it comes to his higher education timeline.
While some of his peers thought they were doing well to get their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years, the Buffalo, New York native will graduate with both degrees in just four years—and he’ll get to do it for the price of just one degree.
High-achieving incoming freshmen have the opportunity to apply for Concordia University Ann Arbor’s Justice and Public Policy Scholars or Business Scholars programs to take advantage of the deal.
Through JPP Scholars, students can acquire their JPP undergraduate degree, as well as a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Administration, in just four years. The Business Scholars program, meanwhile, allows students to gain their MBA and a bachelor’s degree in one of a variety of areas within the same timeframe.
While the reward is sweet, the path to get there is rigorous. These student scholars are required to maintain a 3.5 GPA and complete internships related to both their undergraduate and graduate degrees (for Business Scholars) or a Graduate Thesis and Research Defense (for JPP Scholars). This is only possible by maintaining a year-round course schedule of full academic loads averaging at least 18 credits per semester.
Trowbridge, who will graduate in 2022 from the JPP Scholars program, stumbled into the opportunity when CUAA’s hockey coach recruited him. Following his graduation from the elite New York college preparatory high school that he attended, Trowbridge opted to postpone his education to pursue his hockey passion. He played two years in the Junior Leagues in Canada and Minnesota, putting him slightly behind schedule compared to his high school friends.
A two-for-one degree was just what he needed.
“The JPP Scholars program was a huge incentive for me because of those two years I took off for hockey,” Trowbridge said. “I’ll be able to graduate at the same time, if not sooner, than some of my classmates from high school. Who’d want to pass that up?”
Trowbridge has aspirations to join the FBI or Secret Service (incidentally, he’d be the second alumnus from CUAA’s JPP program to work for the Secret Service). After Concordia, he plans to pursue law school in order to help his chances at rising in the U.S. criminal justice system ranks.
Some may see it as a parent’s obligation to support their child’s dreams, but Jonathan Chin recognizes the sacrifices his father made financially for him, and he’s thankful for it. Thousands of dollars went into nurturing Chin’s hockey passion from 1st grade on, and now, Chin feels it’s time that he demonstrated his appreciation by footing his college tuition.
A new program launched last fall, a year into Chin’s time at CUAA, is now helping to ease Chin’s load in turn.
The program, called Route 38, allows students at the traditional undergraduate level to customize their academic schedule and maximize their budget by paying the regular, full-time tuition rate for up to 38 academic credits across fall, spring, and summer semesters.
Students can leverage the opportunity, for example, by shifting some of their courses from the fall or spring semesters to the summer. Before, students had to pay an additional fee for summer courses.
For Chin, a biology major who plays on CUAA’s hockey team, Route 38 means he’ll be able to pick up some summer courses and have a more relaxed schedule during the fall and spring semesters (roughly 12 credits instead of the full 18-credit load)—and he won’t have to add to his tuition bill to do it.
“It’s definitely a big help. The hockey season is pretty long and we practice early in the mornings, so spreading out my classes means I can have more flexibility with my schedule,” Chin said.
While the program is open to all undergraduates, it’s especially conducive for education and nursing majors because of the formats of each program. In order to complete a nursing or education degree within four years at any university is challenging, said Robert Nowak, assistant vice president of enrollment. Students are required to take some summer courses, and the programs are also heavy on internship/clinical experiences, which can be harder to complete during the fall or spring semesters.
“At Concordia, we value providing a high-quality educational experience that doesn’t place an undue financial burden on them,” Nowak said. “Route 38 has allowed students to stay on track or even ahead without getting overwhelmed or feeling like they had to give up certain activities that added to their Concordia experience.”
Before she stepped foot on Concordia’s campus as a college freshman this past August, Katie Long was already ahead of schedule.
The Howell, Michigan native, who was homeschooled from 1st through 12th grade, earned 33 college credits through Concordia’s pre-college programs. Not only will the frontloading allow her to graduate early from CUAA, Concordia granted back 100 percent of the dual credit tuition she paid. Essentially, she earned 33 credits for free.
Thanks to Concordia’s pre-college programs, more than 1,000 students have been able to jump-start their college career at a reduced price. The pre-college programs include the Concordia Promise Dual Credit Program—for Christian high schools or homeschools—and Michigan’s Post-Secondary Education Option (PSEO)—for public or private high schools in Michigan. For students in the Concordia Promise program who go on to enroll at CUAA or CUW (like Long), Concordia also offers the Concordia Promise PLUS program, which grants back the cost of dual credit tuition paid.
Even though Concordia has been offering dual credit options since 2012, the university has ramped up its programs in recent years. In fact, the Concordia Promise Dual Credit Program and the Concordia Promise PLUS program are among the most competitive pricing options in the nation for homeschooled or Christian high school students ($50 per credit or free for students who matriculate to CUW/CUAA).
Over the past seven years, Concordia has helped more than 1,100 students earn over 7,000 pre-college credits. Of the 106 homes or high schools reached throughout the world, 83 percent of the students were from Christian schools or were homeschooled.
“I would definitely encourage dual enrollment for anyone who might be considering,” Long said. “I completed so many credits because of it and it helped me to become comfortable on campus before I even started as a fulltime freshman here.”
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The fall 2019 Arbor Light hit mailboxes the beginning of October. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, call 734-995-7317 or send us an email.
— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at email@example.com or 262-243-2149.
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