Continuing to pursue key strategies that provide enhanced opportunities for its students, Kalamazoo Valley Community College has created its University Center which combines the degree completion opportunities of four-year schools with the local convenience and services offered at a community college campus.
To put it another way, the University Center concept tightens the linkage between a two-year associate degree and a four-year baccalaureate degree. It allows students to seamlessly transition from one level of education to the next without leaving Kalamazoo Valley’s campuses.
Throughout its five decades, Kalamazoo Valley has worked with four-year schools on articulation agreements, meaning that individual courses successfully completed could transfer and apply to earning the four-year degree.
“That is a course-by-course articulation,” says Craig Jbara, the college’s vice president for strategic business and community development, who is shepherding the evolving approach for the college. “The University Center is a program-to-program articulation.”
First on board in the University Center team was Davenport University, which moved from its long-standing campus on West Main to partner with Kalamazoo Valley in July of 2015. That fall, the first Davenport courses began being offered on the Texas Township Campus. These courses could lead to bachelor’s degrees in accounting, general business, management, medical-case management, and nursing. There will be no loss of Kalamazoo Valley credits that apply to a particular degree.
Discussions are underway with a half dozen other four year institutions to expand the degree opportunities for students in the near future, Jbara says. He believes this is a win-win-win situation for all concerned.
For students facing the ever-growing cost of higher education and training, they can stay in their home communities, lower expenses as much as possible, and advance in a convenient and rich learning environment.
The center simplifies the degree-completion process as students stay in the same buildings and take advantage of many familiar college services such as the libraries and computer labs in addition to the variety of new services offered by the four-year school.
For universities and colleges that come under the University Center umbrella, there is a take-off on the adage that half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf at all. Chances are substantial that schools in other parts of the state would not be connected to certain students without this approach. The third “win” is the rest of the community. “The economic development of a region,” Jbara says, “has been shown to be related to the proportion of residents with advanced educational degrees. Programs that expand the pool of qualified candidates in support of economic-development plans of the region are encouraged.”
“The positive feedback has been great so far,” Jbara says. “It seems to be a great benefit for students who are watching their dollars.” This program has evolved from the 50-year legacy of Kalamazoo Valley – what is best for students. Another positive is the opportunity for connections and linkages to potential employers, which is another hallmark of Kalamazoo Valley.
“I know this program articulation concept may be something of a stretch for some universities because of the traditional approach,” he says, “but everybody knows that times are changing. The Davenport collaboration has been very successful with more partners offering a variety of other program area degrees to come. I believe this is a long-term approach to helping students in Southwest Michigan.”
Here’s the basic tenet of the University Center, according to its guidelines: “Kalamazoo Valley Community College wishes to cooperate with all four-year colleges and universities that desire to bring the final two years of undergraduate degrees, entire graduate degrees, and other credit programs of study to Southwest Michigan.”