01/21/10 — MOC will offer new three-year program

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MOC will offer new three-year program

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 21, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Freshmen at Mount Olive College seeking to earn a bachelor's degree in three instead of four years will now have help the school's help in achieving their goal.

Beginning this fall, the college will waive additional course load fees it normally charges traditional students who want to take more than 15 hours of classes during a semester.

Students with a minimum 3.5 grade point average on their high school transcript will be allowed to take up to 24 credit hours of classes each semester without paying the additional fee. The school will also work to give participating students priority in registering for classes, as well as providing additional advice from academic counselors.

The program is the first formal one of its kind in the state, though schools in other states have experimented with similar enterprises, college President Dr. Philip Kerstetter said.

"In simple reality we are not changing the content or substance of our academic programs. We are just recognizing that some students can meet the degree requirements faster than others, and we are making it possible for them to do so," he said.

The idea behind the new development is to make it easier for students who enter college already set in their career plans to finish their degree and move on to the next stage, such as working in a job or pursuing specialized education such as a law degree.

"How do we enable that student to get on with their lives and graduate that much more quickly?" Kerstetter said.

By cutting out a year of college, students at Mount Olive could save an estimated $22,000, or one quarter of the cost of college expenses, including tuition, fees and room and board expenses.

The expedited program is not for everyone. The college expects about 5 percent of students to take advantage of the opportunity, Kerstetter said.

The student must be an incoming freshmen in fall of 2010 or later, have a 3.5 grade point average from high school and be certain of the degree they plan to pursue. The student must also declare a major upon enrolling.

"We want somebody who's pretty academically sharp. That tells us the student has been serious about their high school experience, it gives us a good indication that they're equally serious about their college experience ... This is not coming to college to know who they are and what they might have interest in. This is for the person who knows what they want to do and what they need to do to get where they want to be," Kerstetter said.

The three-year track will apply to the "vast majority" of degree programs the college offers, though a few programs might require an extra summer's worth of work due to special requirements, such as internships, he said.

Otherwise, three-year-track students probably won't have to take classes during the summer, and some students who start college with college credit hours from AP classes or community college classes might not even have to take the full overload of 24 semester hours to complete their degree in three years, Kerstetter said.

Although some students at MOC and other colleges and universities do graduate in three years without the additional help, it's often an uphill battle for them, Kerstetter said. Students might have to pay overload fees or struggle to get into the classes they need in order to complete their degree requirements.

Advising staff at the college will play a key role in helping to prepare students' schedules, mapping them out for years in advance to make sure they can graduate on time within the three-year plan.

"We know what our typical cycles of courses are and will be working closely with academic advisers. You've got to be looking right down the road between now and the time you graduate, how do you get the courses that you need to be successful in that?" Kerstetter said.

The college is currently accepting applications from students interested in entering the three-year degree program, which will begin in the fall 2010 semester.