Eastern Kentucky University partnered with the University Center of Southern Kentucky [USCK] at Somerset Community College to offer students a four-year bachelor’s degree from EKU while only attending SCC’s campus.
“When we were approached by Somerset about being a partner with USCK, it only made sense. We get a lot of transfers from SCC and this was just another opportunity for those students who are going to choose EKU, at least for some of them, to possibly stay in Somerset,” said Ryan Wilson, EKU special assistant to the president and senior vice president for operations.
Many factors played a part in the partnership, giving students more benefits and opportunities for their education.
“I think the benefits are all related to student success. When you think of first generation or low income college students who might not be able to afford living on campus or the commute, it gives those place bound students that opportunity to stay in Somerset or close to home. Or, adult learners who may have families or full time jobs, it gives them that option of not having to relocate,” Wilson said.
The counties and regions expected to benefit from this partnership the most are located in Southern Kentucky said Wilson.
“I mostly see it helping Pulaski County, Somerset, just for the fact that’s where most of those students probably are attending. But, if you put a 50 mile radius around SCC, I think it would draw from anywhere, any of those contiguous counties.”
President Michael Benson of EKU and President Carey Castle of SCC, both had similar long-term goals in place and an outlook of what the partnership can offer.
“I think President Castle, of SCC, recognized that Somerset was a fairly populous community that didn’t have access to a four-year degree, and he saw this as an opportunity to partner with all of these institutions [the USCK program],” said Benson.
Many programs through EKU are already offered online, but now students are given the opportunity to have a face-to-face learning experience.
“I was down there in May when they had the launch for the partnership, and the feeling I got from the students was that this was a great thing. They are going to start with the programs that are in high demand, and for us, it made sense for the Criminal Justice program to be there,” Benson explains.
“For us, it’s a matter of being able to bring the opportunity for a university, a four-year degree, to the people that live in Somerset and surrounding areas. The idea has been, for quite a while, that as students graduate from high school, some are absolutely ready to go to college right away and go do those things they want to do and they’re financially and emotionally prepared for this. But, others are still kind of in that ‘limbo-stage’ where they’re ready to get out of the house maybe or stay close to home and that’s where we fit that niche,” Castle said.
One of the main goals that both EKU and SCC are hoping to accomplish is a higher percentage of individuals that decide to pursue a college degree.
“My hope, though certainly the larger population counties will probably have more numbers of students, but percentage wise, I’m hoping that it’s going to be spread out pretty well amongst all of our service area counties,” said Castle.