MCC, Northwest Missouri State officially launch new FastTracks partnership

MCC student Britny Hudson speaks at an event promoting the new FastTracks parternship between MCC and Northwest Missouri State. From left are current Northwest (and former MCC) students Cara Hukill and Emily Juhl, Northwest President John Jasinski, Missouri Higher Education Commissioner Zora Mulligan and MCC Vice Chancellor Carlos Peñaloza. (Photos by Matt Scharhag/MCC)

Carlos Peñaloza, Metropolitan Community College’s vice chancellor for academic affairs, now has a Ph.D. by his name, but he’s a community college graduate — and he still remembers finishing with 28 credit hours he didn’t need. Fortunately, he ended up being able to apply some of them toward his bachelor’s degree.

Keeping students on track to graduate is one of the goals of the new FastTracks program, a partnership between MCC and Northwest Missouri State University.  The concurrent enrollment pilot program — approved by the state higher education department — means that students are enrolled at both schools at the same time and working on degrees from each: an associate degree from MCC, a bachelor’s from Northwest.

Students will spend most of the first two years at the MCC campus of their choice but will take one Northwest class a semester at Northwest’s new Kansas City campus in Gladstone. (One perk is that Northwest students are provided with laptop computers, along with primary textbooks for Northwest classes.) Then in years 3 and 4, FastTracks students will continue taking classes at Northwest-KC instead of going to the main campus in Maryville.

The program, which starts this fall, is enrolling now for four areas of study: business management, elementary education, public relations and applied health science. (Learn more at fasttrackskc.com.)

Zora Mulligan, Missouri commissioner of higher education

At a signing ceremony April 25 at the Northwest-KC campus, officials from both schools and Missouri Higher Education Commissioner Zora Mulligan hailed the FastTracks program as student-focused. Peñaloza said its success will be measured not by the number of students who enroll but the number who complete degrees.

“Access without success is an empty promise,” Mulligan agreed. FastTracks is an innovative program that should provide a path to a college degree for students who otherwise wouldn’t have one. It’s vital to support students while they’re in the program, Mulligan added.

Terry Barmann, director of Northwest’s Kansas City campus, said FastTracks will save students time and money.

Three students spoke briefly about their educational journeys. Britny Hudson will graduate in May with an MCC associate degree and will take classes this summer at Northwest-KC. Cara Hukill and Emily Juhl are both current Northwest students who started at MCC. [ Read more about them ]

Peñaloza and Northwest President John Jasinski said that sharing students means many details to iron out — not just academic concerns but also student service areas such as advising and financial aid. But “you put territories aside” to make a program like this work, Jasinski said.

“We are satisfying a community need,” Peñaloza said, adding: “MCC is very proud of this partnership.”

In addition to being placed only in classes that count toward a degree, FastTracks students will work closely with an academic advisor and be encouraged to work with a career coach. Additionally, students will be required to participate in a profession-based, credit-earning learning experience such as an internship or practicum.

Northwest Missouri State President John Jasinski (from left), Higher Education Commissioner Zora Mulligan and MCC Vice Chancellor Carlos Peñaloza sign off on the FastTracks partnership.