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Earn a 4-year degree locally at M State's UCenter

Speaking on the student focus for the U Center are M State President Carrie Brimhall (from left), St. Cloud State University President Robbyn Wacker, assistant VP for admissions Amber Schultz and associate director of admissions Mike Coonen. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Starting in January, it will be possible for students to complete four-year bachelor's degrees on the Minnesota State Community and Technical College campuses in Wadena and Fergus Falls.

College officials made that announcement at a gathering Monday at the Wadena campus with several students listening in to hear what possibilities may be available for them.

Students at the UCenter in Wadena will be able to earn SCSU bachelor's degrees in RN to BSN and Individualized Studies (Bachelor of Elective Studies). While those degrees already can be completed online through MSUM or SCSU, students who enroll through M State can do their coursework on campus in Fergus Falls or Wadena using M State technology and internet connections. Each of the four-year campuses also will provide support services by staffing the UCenter at their M State partner campus with admission, advising and academic representatives on a scheduled basis.

In Wadena, that's every other Thursday with staff like Mike Coonen, associate director of admissions from St. Cloud State University. Coonen was pleased to see the collaboration take place as he often hears students hoping for the opportunity to complete their schooling in one place, where they already feel at home and comfortable.

"I've heard time and again that students are so comfortable at M State or cannot commute to a

university," said Dr. Matt Borcherding, M State's dean of liberal arts and sciences. "Now we can

accommodate those students and offer them a bachelor's degree option closer to home."

And while the degrees may be limited right now for that four-year degree option, M State President Carrie Brimhall said the hope is those options could be expanded.

"We're starting small with four full online completion programs, but I'm confident that in the future we will be able to have MSUM or SCSU courses taught on campus or by using our telepresence technology," Borcherding said.

Brimhall noted that she's been a part of the college system for 21 years and has been looking for this option to become reality.

It's a trend not unlike the trend in retail. While big box stores may be failing, smaller businesses are being rejuvenated and using the strength of online. In the same way, smaller college systems like M State are a convenient choice, especially when degree options are expanded through the use of the web.

"At M State over the last three years there have been 1,011 M State students that have graduated with an Associate of Arts degree, and of that group 385 of them did not continue their education after graduation," Brimhall noted. "While we're not certain why they chose not to continue, we believe access, mobility and cost are part of the equation. This partnership allows us to reach people who are living in the Wadena region who are not able to move to St. Cloud to obtain a degree.

SCSU President Robbyn Wacker was equally pleased to see the collaboration come to fruition.

"We're here because we think this is very important," Wacker said. She said this opportunity better serves students and the region as a whole.

Brimhall said students have been asking what other options may become available through the partnership and Brimhall said the college is open to talking about those options. Brimhall noted that the RN to BSN option is a good one because it's for someone who is working as a nurse and needs to squeeze in further studies close to home.

"The point to get across is we are just getting started," Wacker said of further degree options.

Students at the UCenter in Fergus Falls will be able to earn online bachelor's degrees from MSUM in one of three majors: RN to BSN (Bachelor of Science Nursing), Project Management and Business. The UCenters are being created under the umbrella of the Central Minnesota Baccalaureate Initiative. M State, MSUM and SCSU are all part of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities, which includes 30 two-year colleges and seven universities.

For more information, contact M State at 877-450-3322.