Innovating education

An agreement between UT and two Michigan colleges makes higher education more accessible and convenient

The University of Toledo plans to pursue similar agreements with other community colleges in Ohio.
The University of Toledo plans to pursue similar agreements with other community colleges in Ohio.

Higher education has become increasingly inaccessible, even as it becomes more important in today’s job market. With lower tuitions, more open admission policies, and flexible schedules, community colleges have helped many students get the education and training they need. Even so, many community college graduates who want to earn four-year or advanced degrees have difficulty continuing their education.

To meet the demand for higher education, especially when resources are scarce, colleges need to get creative. An innovative partnership between the University of Toledo, Schoolcraft College in Livonia, and Wayne State University in Detroit provides a model for how community colleges and universities can work together to make a bachelor’s, or even a master’s, degree more attainable.

Called “Schoolcraft to U,” the initiative allows students at the Livonia community college to enroll in certain bachelor’s degree programs offered by UT or Wayne State. The University of Toledo will offer, starting next fall, nursing, criminal justice, and health information administration programs at Schoolcraft, while Wayne State will oversee business and engineering degrees.

Future UT course offerings at Schoolcraft could include psychology and communications, as well as master’s degree programs, Larry Burns, UT vice president for external affairs, told The Blade editorial page.

Transfer agreements between community colleges and four-year universities are, thankfully, becoming increasingly common. They enable students to get an affordable and convenient start on a four-year degree without losing credits.

But the agreement between UT, Schoolcraft, and Wayne State — initiated by Schoolcraft — takes such cooperative efforts further. In effect, it turns a local two-year school into a satellite or branch campus for two larger universities, enabling students who started at the community college to, perhaps, keep a job or remain close to family while pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

Even better, UT students at Livonia in suburban Detroit will pay, with UT scholarships, the equivalent of in-state tuition, making a UT education at Schoolcraft less expensive than at almost any college in Michigan. In-state tuition for UT this year is $9,054, compared to $18,174 for out-of-state.

Students will take classes — some on-line, others with UT faculty — at a newly renovated building across from Schoolcraft’s main campus, where UT will take 10,000 square feet for classrooms, faculty offices, meeting rooms, and other educational uses. UT will hire at least some of its faculty at Schoolcraft from the Livonia area.

UT officials plan to enroll 100 students at Schoolcraft the first semester, eventually growing to 400 students.

To make UT students at Schoolcraft feel more a part of the main campus, UT gear will be sold in Schoolcraft’s book store.

“When they get off the elevator, we want students to feel like they’re at UT in Toledo on Bancroft,” Mr. Burns said.

UT plans to pursue similar agreements with other community colleges in Ohio and elsewhere — and it should. Other community colleges and universities should consider this a model for how they can, working together, make a higher education more accessible, convenient, and affordable.