GVSU, GRCC Collaborate On Program

July 28, 2008
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HOLLAND — Grand Valley State University, in collaboration with Grand Rapids Community College, is offering non-traditional students a convenient and flexible degree-completion program at its Meijer Campus in Holland beginning this fall.

The program was created to reach out to people who had started college but didn’t complete a four-year degree, said Simone Jonaitis, GVSU’s executive director of continuing education. GVSU officials decided the university could maximize the program offerings at its lakeshore campus by having GRCC provide some of the core required courses — English, math, history, science, humanities — that every student has to take to complete a bachelor’s degree, Jonaitis said.

“This way, the university can focus on the remaining portion of classes for the degree completion,” she explained. “It’s very advantageous in that we are providing avenues for non-traditional students to use their previously earned credits.” 

GVSU is offering the program through its Department of Liberal Studies. The curriculum includes both core classes and classes in emphasis areas, such as leadership, ethics or communication arts. Students will earn an associate degree in arts from GRCC and a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with an emphasis in their selected areas of study from GVSU. Jonaitis said the average age of a student returning to complete a four-year degree is 26.

Dan Clark, GRCC’s executive director of the lakeshore campus, said GRCC has been working through the spring and summer to identify which courses it would offer at the Meijer campus. He said four classes are going to be offered this fall and winter semester, all geared to general education requirements. As of last week, there were 90 GRCC students enrolled in the program.

“In my last meeting with GVSU, we had around 100 students who showed interest in completing their degree,” he said. “We’re just really pleased with how this is developing. It has gone really well, and we’re excited about getting this going.”

Jonaitis said GVSU will offer more than 30 courses at the Meijer campus but they’re not all just for the adult degree completion program. Overall, enrollment at GVSU’s Holland campus is at about 700. About 50 GVSU students have enrolled for the degree completion program thus far, but it’s still early in the enrollment process, she noted.

GVSU has actually had more than 100 inquiries about the program. The reason GVSU selected the liberal studies program is because non-traditional students typically have work obligations and civic responsibilities, so they need convenient, flexible formatting that includes online courses, hybrid courses and weekend classes, Jonaitis explained. 

The liberal studies program is broad-based: Students can select courses from a variety of disciplines and build degrees that suit their interests. It’s a way for them to gather together their experience and their previous college credits and design something that is flexible and much more aligned with who they are today, Jonaitis said.

“The students that are coming in are feeling very comfortable. I think a lot of it is with their feeling that there’s finally access for them,” she remarked.

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