Eastern Kentucky University partnered with the University Center of Southern Kentucky [UCSK] 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 UCSK, 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 UCSK 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.

"I’m looking for an equal percentage out of Wayne, McCreary, Cumberland, Clinton, those counties that would normally be coming here for class, now can do the planning from 11 grade up through their graduation year with a Bachelor’s degree," Castle explains.

“It isn’t large numbers. I think people are expecting an entire class of 500 students to come through and do this next year, but that’s not going to be the case. It’ll be bits and pieces of students here and there in different counties, but, it’s an opportunity that together, both EKU and SCC can benefit everyone who lives here," said Castle, “I believe that if a student has had their mind set on going to EKU or UK since way early in high school and have been accepted, they’re not going to come to Somerset first, and that’s okay, I wish them the very best. But, there’s a lot of students out there exactly what they want to do, or they’re not sure, and that’s why SCC presents a really good opportunity. There’s also some kids who just like to be at home, family is very important to them, so we can provide the best of both worlds, and save them some money along the way."

The UCSK program has had much help from local individuals and government affiliations. 

“Congressman Hal Rogers is the one who really initiated this whole process. He called me in one time to a meeting and asked if we were interested in having a four-year degree on campus and I said sure, we would love to do that,” said Castle, “We have a local group here called the Founder’s Club who has been pushing for a four-year university in this area for a long time. It gave everyone the confidence to move forward and make something happen. It’s the right time, right place, right people and it took off, and I’m excited,” explains Castle. “The Founder’s Club is a group of local people. Bill Turpin, who lives here in Somerset, along with Paula Thompson, who’s in Laurel, and Cindy Clouse, whose apart of our staff are the executive team. There’s approximately 75 very interested people in the community that formed the Founder’s Club when we first announced it. They provided support and guidance on the direction we needed to head first. From there, we’re going to go back and talk to them again about how do we get additional support on some of the things we might want to do in the future. They’ve been kind of the steering committee, or team if you will, that helps us make sure we’re actually doing things that the community wants; very helpful.” 

 

“I think people don’t know what they don’t know. We have so many different things here at SCC that a student could get wrapped up in, in terms of careers and programs. I would even go a step further; I would take them up on whatever they’re offering. Explore the programs, take some time and find out what you want to do, and once you have an idea, then we can figure out the best route for you to go,” said Castle, “it’s all about what a student needs and how we work with them through the best possible route to achieve that goal.” 

For more information on the UCSK program and partnership between EKU and SCC, visit https://somerset.kctcs.edu/about/campuses/university-center-of-southern-kentucky/index.aspx

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