SUU and STECH Provide New Degree Pathways for Rural Students

SUU and STECH Provide New Degree Pathways for Rural Students

February 11, 20193 min read

Southern Utah University (SUU) and Southwest Technical College (STECH), both located in Cedar City, Utah, have formed a unique, dual enrollment partnership aimed at giving students a wider range of academic programs, flexibility of schedule, and new degree pathways specifically designed for rural students.

During the late fall of 2017, President Scott Wyatt and President Brennan Wood held meetings to discuss measures that could be taken between the two institutions to benefit students and help with retention and completion. These discussions led to a proposed dual-enrollment partnership between the two institutions to tentatively commence in August of 2019.

Students from rural communities, which make up the bulk of SUU and STECH’s service area, comprise a commonly underserved college population in the state of Utah. There are a number of contributing factors to the discrepancy between rural and urban students, including geographical isolation and levels of poverty that are higher than the state average. As a result, the population of this region of the state has a significantly lower percentage of the adult population with a college degree (associate degree or higher).

Through the dual enrollment process, students enrolling at STECH are given the option to be simultaneously, dually enrolled at SUU, receiving credit at both institutions without having to pay any additional tuition or transfer fee. Students enrolled at STECH can earn as many as 35 credits toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree under the program, giving them a significant boost toward a college degree.

Additionally, SUU students can take courses covered under the articulation agreements at STECH, pay significantly lower tuition, and receive SUU credit. This occurs while both institutions remain as separate entities, maintaining operational and administrative independence.

The advantages of this model are clear, students from STECH receive university credit not currently available to them, using the flexible, open entry scheduling model already in place, while paying the much lower STECH tuition rate.

“Meanwhile, SUU students can also enroll in STech courses for significantly lower tuition and fee costs, have access to instructional programs not currently offered at SUU (e.g., welding and culinary arts) and still receive university credit for their study at STech. The benefits to students at both schools are significant, and the lack of a merger of the two institutions causes less consternation in the community,” according to NWCCU.

During Fall semester 2018, students enrolled at STECH in Computer Science became the first students to be dually enrolled at SUU and STECH. The articulation agreement between SUU and STECH in computer science is the first fully-integrated, course-by-course articulation agreement approved between the institutions, and it served as a template for all the agreements that followed and an early test of the dual enrollment system.

A total of 26 students were enrolled at STECH in the Computer Science program that is part of the dual enrollment test. Listed below are some statistics for the 26 students in the Fall 2018 cohort:

  • Number of eligible students that chose to “opt in” to the dual enrollment program: 25 out of 26 (96.1%)
  • Number of credits awarded at no cost to STECH students: 135 SUU credits
  • Number of courses taken that are covered by the SUU/STECH articulation agreement compared to all courses taken: 45 out of 58 (77.5%)

These statistics show that the program is off to a very strong start among the STECH computer science test group. The secure portal for reporting academic data between the two institutions is operational and effective. The percentage of students that are choosing to participate in the program, as well as the percentage of courses generating SUU credit under the current articulation agreements is very encouraging.

The faculty, staff and administration of both institutions spent an enormous amount of time and energy in the planning and approval phase of this agreement. The process that was undertaken to arrive at the agreement was challenging and required creative problem-solving. However, at all times, the focus was on what would be best for students and their academic progress. Both institutions are eagerly looking forward to the first full implementation of the agreement in Fall 2019, and we anticipate that the initial successes seen in the test group will be seen among the student body as a whole.

Learn more about the SUU and STech Dual Enrollment Program: 

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  • Steven Meredith
    Steven Meredith Steven Meredith Associate VP, Enrollment Management for Graduate and Online

    Specializing in graduate programs, online education, music technology, performing arts career preparation, & innovation in higher education.

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