Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

August 6, 2013

Higher education

ACTC-OU agreement expands local chances to earn degrees

ASHLAND — While Ashland does not have a four-year college or university and probably never will have, the opportunities to earn four-year bachelor’s degrees and even master’s degrees without ever leaving Ashland keep increasing. 

Agreements signed last week by officials at Ashland Community and Technical College and Ohio University will enable students to complete up to three years of the academic courses they need for a bachelor’s degree on the  ACTC campus and then the remaining course work at OU’s Southern Campus in Ironton.

Ashland Community and Technical College and Ohio University signed agreements Wednesday that will enable students to complete up to three years of academic work at ACTC and then the rest at OU.

The four degree programs included in the agreement are criminal justice, technical and applied studies, applied management and nursing.

“We are looking to give students as many opportunities as possible, including access to an Ohio University degree, without leaving here,” said ACTC President Kay Adkins. “This broadens opportunities for students and that is what ACTC is about.”

Under the agreement, credits from ACTC associate degree programs will transfer and students will have the option of taking most of the remaining classes online.

However, students will have the option of taking the classes at OU Southern in Ironton if they wish, said OU provost of eLearning and strategic partnerships Deb Gearhart. “We can set up a traditional transfer pathway if students want to study on campus.” 

While taking courses online certainly is a viable option for students whose work schedules or family obligations make it difficult to take classes in person, we think there is great value in taking traditional on-campus classes because they allow students to interact with each other and with instructors, something they cannot get by sitting at a computer at home. There is great value in that in helping students interact with their co-workers in their future careers.

OU for several years has been actively developing degree programs involving community colleges, concentrating on online completion, said interim OUS dean Dan Evans.

“We don’t really need a formal agreement to work together. We’ve been working together for a long time now,” he said.

Interested students may begin the process immediately, Gearhart said. OU has an informational website, ohio.edu/actc, which outlines the four programs and includes degree outlines and guides to course equivalency.

Because ACTC and OUS have a tuition reciprocity agreement, ACTC students will pay in-state tuition for their OU courses. For the 2013-14 academic year, in-state rates are $240 for online courses and $224 per credit hour for in-person courses at the Ironton campus.

Morehead State, the University of Kentucky, Lindsey Wilson College and other schools already offer classes in Ashland that will count toward a four-year degree or a master’s degree. Completing college without leaving Ashland significantly reduces the cost of a college education for local residents, and actively encourages residents to pursue a college degree. In a region that needs more college graduates in order to better compete for the good-paying jobs of the future, that’s important. Regardless of how it is achieved or how long it takes, there is great value in having bachelor’s or master’s degree from fully accredited colleges

The ACTC-OU agreement is another step forward in improving the educational opportunities in this community. Such agreements are the next best thing to having a four-year college in town.

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