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  • Submitted to KU News - Colleges, districts collaborate to offer degree in three years

Colleges, districts collaborate to offer degree in three years

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

OVERLAND PARK – A new collaboration among the University of Kansas Edwards Campus, Johnson County Community College (JCCC) and the Blue Valley and Olathe school districts will enable secondary students to obtain a bachelor’s degree in information technology three years after high school graduation, officials announced.

The Degree in 3 program represents an innovative way for students interested in an IT career to accelerate education, obtain access to internships, become acclimated to the business world and save money on higher education.

The Edwards Campus and JCCC also are exploring ways to expand Degree in 3 to additional fields of study and to more school districts, according to David Cook, Edwards Campus vice chancellor.

“Industry is asking for this,” Cook said. “The IT workforce needs are out there, and there is business interest in meeting the need. As we have launched our new Bachelor of Science in information technology, we are constantly talking with our partners. Kansas legislators also have suggested we explore options such as this.”

The program enhances existing academic collaboration between JCCC and the Edwards Campus, said Joe Sopcich, JCCC president.

“The college had programs in place that allow high school students to earn college credit, and we had other agreements in place with KU Edwards Campus,” Sopcich said. “This became a natural partnership that helps each entity serve students and the community.”

Degree in 3 works like this:

  • Students in the Blue Valley and Olathe school districts develop an academic plan that includes courses eligible for college credits but completed while in high school. Such a plan may include Advanced Placement courses or courses through JCCC programs known as College Now and Quick Step.
  • Upon high school graduation, students complete remaining freshman-sophomore credits at JCCC with the goal of earning an Associate of Science in information technology systems in one year.
  • Students then transfer to the Edwards Campus and complete courses toward the Bachelor of Science in information technology in two years.

Of significant value is the real-world experience feature of Degree in 3. Examples include the Center for Advanced Professional Studies experience in the Blue Valley School District and the 21st Century Programs in the Olathe School District. Mentorships and internships at area bioscience, business, engineering and human services organizations supplement classroom learning. Accelerating the program also helps students manage college and living expenses.

Cook said there is a “tremendous explosion” of demand for IT workers, so IT is the logical area of study to launch Degree in 3. He said the Edwards Campus also is preparing to launch bachelor’s degrees in business administration and exercise science to the Degree in 3 model.

“Degree in 3 supports the economic viability of the community, too,” Cook said. “Students are introduced to the culture of real-world Kansas City business, and Kansas City-area employers get an earlier look at local talent. So maybe jobs are waiting for our graduates, and businesses spend less time getting new employees up to speed.”

The Bachelor of Science in information technology is one of many academic degrees that KU Edwards Campus has initiated through the Johnson County Education Research Triangle, a partnership among the taxpayers of Johnson County, Kansas State University and KU. The long-range vision of the Triangle is to create $1.4 billion in economic effects in this generation.

“Degree in 3 directly supports the Triangle’s purpose of attracting and retaining a talented workforce that will foster expansion in the business community,” Cook said.

The Edwards Campus at 127th Street and Quivira Road in Overland Park brings high-quality academic programs, research and public service benefits of KU to the greater Kansas City community in order to serve the workforce, economic and community development needs of the region.