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Editorial: Ivy Tech program offers way to get degree faster

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The average associate degree program takes two years and costs about $20,000, but Ivy Tech Community College is offering students a chance to shave off time and money.

The Associate Accelerated Program will grant degrees ASAP, an acronym for the education initiative. Students will be able to earn the required 60 community college credits over an intensive 11 months instead of the traditional two-year track, and the tuition bill is less than $8,000.

It’s not a vocational program designed to lead directly to the workforce. Rather, it is a shortcut to a four-year degree. It is not for students who just simply want to get an associate degree and finish.

The genesis of the program came in 2010 in a partnership between the Lumina Foundation and Ivy Tech. The foundation provided $2.34 million to help launch the ASAP program at the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne campuses. Lafayette became the third campus to offer the program the following year.

ASAP is set to expand to every campus in the community college system.

Students in the program are encouraged to think of college as a job — a five-day-a-week, nine-to-five job. Because of the rigorous schedule and expectations, students are asked to sign a pledge that commits them — physically and emotionally — to the degree. They’re not supposed to take on a job, unless it’s on the weekends, and their parents must agree to house them for the 11-month period.

An ASAP student is motivated, high-achieving and has no attendance or disciplinary issues, one Ivy Tech administrator said. Most importantly, these students will have a vision for the future.

There’s time built into the schedule so students can apply to four-year institutions in the fall. If students are interested, visits to large campuses such Indiana University and Purdue University and smaller colleges such as Franklin College can be arranged.

As ASAP classes are small, the students will be able to share successes and overcome challenges together, just as they will with their co-workers when they start their careers.

The program targets at-risk or low-income students and attempts to lift any barriers for them — the biggest being cost. Only 20 percent of ASAP students graduate with debt, and those who do owe money have an average balance of $500.

While the percentage of Hoosiers with a college degree has risen over the past five years, Indiana still remains among the least-degreed states in the nation. Programs such as this that target students who dismiss the idea of a four-year college degree because of costs can help close the diploma gap. In turn that can have a significant positive impact on the state’s economy.

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