Spokane Journal of Business

SCC launches one-year transfer degree program

Fast-track program will be fully online

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Spokane Community College is launching a one-year transfer degree which will allow students to complete a conventional two-year associate of arts degree in half of the time.

The program, Fast Track Your Future, prepares students to transfer to all four-year colleges and universities in Washington state, assuming the students meet admission requirements. The first session is set to begin in January and continue year-round, including a full class schedule in the summer. 

The inaugural cohort will be made up of about 20 students who will complete transfer degrees, which will be associate degrees, in December 2023. New cohorts will start every quarter except summer, each with a schedule to complete their transfer degree 12 months from the time of starting.

Fast Track Your Future is offered fully online and asynchronously, meaning students can log in to the courses and complete them at any time.

Kevin Brockbank, SCC president, says the program was devised to offer students who weren’t accessing the college’s two-year transfer degree a new model in which to complete their goals.

“If you look at studies, the questions students are always concerned with are the total cost of attendance and the total time of completion,” he says.

A typical full course load for an SCC student is 15 credits. Students in the fast-track cohort will take 25 credits consisting of five courses, four of which will be half-quarter-long classes. One base course will last throughout a quarter. Instead of taking 22 months to complete a transfer degree, students will be able shave off 10 months and receive an associate degree in 12 months, says Brockbank.

Brockbank explains that there are three tiers of tuition payment that students are charged. The first 10 credits are charged at $119 per credit, credits 11 to 18 are charged at $59 per credit, and credits 19+ are charged at $107 per credit. 

What this means for students in the fast-track program is that they will pay $1,486 tuition for the first 15 credits, and an additional $924 in tuition for the next 10 credits, explains Brockbank. 

“Another thing people don’t think about is total cost of attendance,” he adds. “If you take 10 months off that total length of attendance, that’s 10 months of living expenses. It’s huge.”

Brockbank says while it may be challenging for students in this model to have a job, some certainly will.

“Our students always do amazing things,” he says. “I often marvel at the single parents and students working two jobs while taking care of their parents, they overcome so many different barriers.”

Considering the intensity of the program, however, faculty will screen prospective students to gauge their commitment and understanding of the level of work with which they will be tasked, Brockbank says. Furthermore, because the fast-track model is a siloed program without distractions of larger classrooms, it becomes easier for faculty to keep track of students.

“A fast-track instructional model is going to require us as an institution, including the faculty members, to be more attentive to the cohort,” he says.

Gwendolyn Cash-James, SCC dean of arts and sciences, adds that the small cohort of students also fosters camaraderie and support, which makes it more likely that each student will complete the program.

Brockbank concurs.

“Certain groups do better in mentorship and cohort model,” he says. “This is one of those models where you immediately build relationships and support groups. We know when you don’t show up.”

Brockbank says the college didn’t require new funding for the program as it took existing courses and platforms already offered and molded them into the new model.

Registration for the program was set to begin Nov. 7. Brockbank says he’s curious to learn more about the demographics of cohorts that choose to complete their transfer degrees using this model. 

Leaders at SCC involved with developing the Fast Track Your Future Program studied models from other colleges across the country that have been successful for underserved populations, such as diverse racial and ethnic groups. 

Some of the colleges that offer similar, but not identical, programs of which leaders at SCC reviewed were Milwaukee Area Technical College, St. Louis Community College, and Germanna Community College, in Locust Grove, Virginia, notes Cash-James. 

“For underserved populations for which the traditional model has not been successful, this is a successful model,” Brockbank says. “They’ve seen increased levels of success.” 

Cash-James says that while the phenomenon isn’t fully understood, research indicates a few factors likely at play for increased success with fast-track models and offers several points.

Underserved students are more likely to attend college part-time, explains Cash-James. Full-time accelerated programs like the one being launched at SCC engage the student in a more intensive enrollment experience, and research shows that enrollment intensity increases student success. 

Also, from an emotional and social perspective, in an accelerated program, students can see and attain progress faster, which bolsters confidence, and the shorter-term courses create increased bonding opportunities, thereby making underserved students feel more engaged with the work. 

Cash-James says another group the program may serve well is first-generation college students.

In Spokane, 35% of students are first-generation college students, she says, adding, “That’s what the data says, but it could be higher.”

Brockbank says that the average age of a student at SCC is 29 years old. He says he imagines this model will be appealing to adults returning to school with some or no college work previously completed.

Cash-James says about 15 faculty members are involved in the program, and they currently are participating in professional development sessions throughout the fall quarter to prepare for the new cohort.

Andrea Reid, professor of English and foreign language at SCC for the past 22 years, is a faculty member involved with the fast-track program. 

Reid says when she heard of the program, she immediately knew she wanted to be part of a new pathway for students that is only offered in a few places in the country.

“We’re excited to be leading students to success and to try something innovative,” says Reid.

Brockbank adds, “The time and need to continue to innovate is present. This is important for us, because it will build the framework for other kinds of opportunities besides just a transfer degree.”

Karina Elias
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Reporter Karina Elias covers the banking and finance industry. A California native, she attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. Karina loves salsa dancing, traveling, baking, cuddling with her dog, and writing creative fiction and non-fiction.  

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