MCC joins Degree in 3 initiative, an accelerated path to a four-year degree

Taking part in the June 12 Degree in 3 signing event (from left): Jessica Dain, Olathe Public Schools; Cheryl Reichert, Raytown Schools; Greg Mosier, Kansas City Kansas Community College; Dr. Kimberly Beatty, Metropolitan Community College; Dennis Carpenter, Lee’s Summit R-7 Schools; student Eric Fecteau; Kenny Southwick, Shawnee Mission Schools; Joe Sopcich, Johnson County Community College; Cynthia Lane, Kansas City Kansas Public Schools; David Cook, KU Edwards Campus; and Todd White, Blue Valley Schools.

Degree in 3, a faster route to a bachelor’s degree at the University of Kansas, has now gone bistate: Metropolitan Community College joined a handful of K-12 school districts and the region’s two other community colleges at a signing ceremony June 12 at the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park.

Degree in 3 refers to completing a four-year degree three years after high school. For that to be possible, high-achieving students take a year’s worth of college credit courses in high school, then spend another year on a community college campus to earn their associate degree. The final two years are spent at the KU Edwards Campus.

Eric Fecteau

But, as student Eric Fecteau is demonstrating, it might take even less than three years — he calls his “Degree in 2-1/2.” At 19 years old, Fecteau is just three semesters away from completing his KU degree in business administration. He graduated from Blue Valley West High School in 2017 and has been taking classes at both Johnson County Community College and KU Edwards. He also owns his own lawn care business.

Having watched two brothers head off to four-year schools, he views Degree in 3 as having “a huge potential of opportunity and value,” Fecteau said at the signing ceremony. In other words, Degree in 3 saves him money on college costs, which he’s paying himself.

MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty said she’d taken part in another KU Edwards ceremony in April, that time inking an agreement that an MCC associate in arts degree will now satisfy KU general education requirements.

MCC Chancellor Dr. Kimberly Beatty

She noted that at MCC’s 2018 commencement, 93 students received associate degrees or certificates the same month they graduated from high school.

At a recent panel discussion, Dr. Beatty heard one refrain over and over from business and industry: “We have an aging population . . . We don’t have enough employees . . . We need a workforce.” Programs such as Degree in 3 are the “courageous steps we need to take” to put STEM students on a faster path to degree completion and a career.

In MCC’s case, Degree in 3 participants will come from the Summit Technology Academy. That half-day career program is run by the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, but it serves students from 17 public high schools. As the name suggests, Summit Technology Academy focuses on high-demand and STEM programs such as engineering, computer science and health sciences.

For Degree in 3, juniors and seniors from Summit Technology Academy will earn college credits in a variety of ways, including dual credit, advanced placement and International Baccalaureate classes, then spend a year at an MCC campus after graduating from high school. At KU Edwards, they have three degree programs to choose from — biotechnology, exercise science or molecular biosciences — although that number may grow over time.

Degree in 3 students will be assigned a KU academic advisor “who will help them navigate from high school to associate degree to bachelor’s degree, ensuring students are meeting all three milestones,” said Elaine Metcalf, principal of Summit Technology Academy.

KU Edwards launched Degree in 3 in 2014 with the Blue Valley School District’s CAPS program and Johnson County Community College.

The newest Degree in 3 partners are Summit Technology Academy, Southland CAPS (Raytown School District), Kansas City Kansas Public Schools Diploma+, Metropolitan Community College and Kansas City Kansas Community College. Other Degree in 3 partners are Olathe 21st Century Academies and Shawnee Mission Signature Programs.

Related: KU, community colleges, K-12 schools partner to accelerate education path for KC students (KU News)

Watch Facebook Live video of the signing event

MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty (center) joined officials of K-12 districts, the region’s other two community colleges and KU Edwards Campus in signing documents to formalize KU’s Degree in 3 program.