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UT links up with Mich. community college

Staff Reporter

Published: Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 03:11

The University of Toledo is partnering with a Michigan community college to offer bachelor degrees to students attending the college next fall.

Schoolcraft College, located in Livonia, Mich., reached out to UT last spring, said Larry Burns, UT’s vice president of external affairs. He said the institutions discussed forming a partnership that would allow Schoolcraft students to obtain four-year degrees after earning a two-year degree.

Burns said while classes will not begin until August 2014, UT plans to have advisors in place by May to begin aiding students.

UT President Lloyd Jacobs said that he thinks the relationship with Schoolcraft will help the university continue to reach out to the students in the surrounding areas, particularly students from community colleges.

“We are, and I am, very interested in the contribution of a two-year school to our community and our economic base,” he said. “I think Schoolcraft is particularly well positioned. We’ve been interested in reaching out to Michigan now for a couple years. This does that; this moves that well forward.”

Schoolcraft’s director of marketing and communications Frank Ruggirello said the college president, Conway Jeffress, selected UT because UT’s programs build off the programs the community college offers.

“I’ve heard him [Jeffers] specifically use terms about the University of Toledo and Wayne State too, that we are like minded, we do business the same way,” Ruggirello said. “He felt like the connection was a very comfortable one and there has been a lot of collaboration.”

Burns said Schoolcraft recently purchased a building across from their main campus that they are in the process of renovating. UT has been given the third floor of the building to use as a designated UT area.

“Schoolcraft is giving us 10,000 square feet of space, which is a pretty substantial amount of space, and we can use that in any way we want,” Burns said. “We’re in the process of designing space that we hope will be the prototype of the one world school house.”

The community college asked UT to offer degrees in nursing, criminal justice and health information administration. Additionally, the college is partnering with Wayne State University in the engineering and business departments.

Ruggirello said that this partnership is an easier way for the college’s student to continue their education and complete a bachelor’s degree.

“Two-year colleges have a tendency to help students and a lot of students say that their goal is to transfer,” he said. “But if you look at the statistics, they may transfer, but not many of them complete a bachelor’s degree. And so our president is really focused on trying to help our students complete that bachelor’s degree and beyond.”

Burns said in the beginning a lot of the course work will be online. As time goes on, the programs will morph into a “flipped classroom” environment, where students will watch lectures on their own time and do hands-on activities during class, he said.

“The plan is to have it very much a hybrid program, meaning students will spend time face-to-face with UT faculty and doing online work and maybe doing some UT campus stuff, too,” Burns said.

Ruggirello said the institutions are working together so staffers are “cross-trained” in UT, Schoolcraft and Wayne State programs.

UT Faculty Senate President Linda Rouillard said in an email interview that she hopes the needs of both schools’ students will be balanced. She said that while she thinks the partnership will be beneficial for UT, the university must ensure Schoolcraft students are also receiving benefits.

“For face-to-face or blended courses, the commute is about 65 miles, and I assume that that will be taken into consideration for a faculty member’s workload,” she said.

Burns said UT was looking to hire faculty members in the Livonia area. Current faculty members could choose to teach there if they chose, but would not be required, he said.

Rouillard said that students may be able to adapt to the learning aspect of UT, but “I imagine it’s difficult feeling like part of an institution or a community until you’ve have significant experience of its culture on-site.”

Burns said the students will receive the same benefits that current UT students receive, including access to Rockets Solution Central and on-campus sporting events. In May, UT gear will also be sold in Schoolcraft’s book store.

“We’re trying to make them feel a part of us,” Burns said. “What we’ve heard from the research we’ve done with a lot of community college students who go to a university, they feel like trespassers. They feel like they aren’t part of the university. We want them to feel like a Rocket, even though they aren’t actually here.”

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