Accelerated Community College

November 14, 2013

The typical community college student works at least part time while attending classes and often doesn't complete a degree even after three years, according to the U.S. Education Department, says the Wall Street Journal.

Derrick Johnson is on a different track. The 19-year-old first-year student from a low-income neighborhood of Indianapolis received a scholarship for spending six hours in class each day and another six hours a day studying with classmates. He has pledged not to work during the week. His scholarship, besides tuition and fees, also helps cover expenses, such as some food and transportation costs. Best of all, he expects to earn an associate's degree by May, within one year.

  • Mr. Johnson is part of an experimental program at Ivy Tech Community College, a public community college in Indiana.
  • The Associate Accelerated Program, known by the nickname ASAP, aims to chart a new path to a degree as two-year schools across the nation wrestle with poor graduation and retention rates and a growing need to upgrade the skills of people entering the workforce.
  • After three years of small-scale trials, about 70 percent of ASAP students have an associate's degree in 12 months, according to Ivy Tech officials. On a national level, about 31 percent of students earn degrees at two-year schools within three years of enrollment, according to the Education Department.
  • Buoyed by an additional $2.2 million from Lumina, officials at Ivy Tech plan to expand the program to the rest of Indiana within the next two years and aim to produce 1,000 graduates a year at Ivy Tech's 14 campuses over time.

ASAP officials say other accelerated associate's degree programs exist but none come with such a comprehensive support package in a one-year time frame.

But education experts and officials alike wonder about the longevity of the program, given its high upfront costs and dependence on private aid. Indeed, around 300 students have enrolled in the program at a cost of $2.8 million so far. Now, the expansion project totals about $5.3 million, of which $3.1 million is coming from Ivy Tech. Federal grants cover much of the approximately $10,000 for tuition and supplies at Ivy Tech, but additional funding is needed for student expenses, such as transportation and food.

Source: Caroline Porter, "College Makes Studying Pay," Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2013.

 

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