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New partnership helps Red Rocks Community College students earn accelerated master’s degrees

New partnership helps Red Rocks Community College students earn accelerated master’s degrees

Western Colorado University (Western) and Red Rocks Community College (RRCC) today launch Elevated and Accelerated, a cross-institutional degree track that enables RRCC students—after taking the critical first step of earning an associate’s degree—to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in 19 professional fields at Western (based in Gunnison) with only three additional years of study.

Often, community college graduates find that the road to a master’s degree, once they’ve earned their associate’s degree, typically takes at least four more years, and can entail uncertainty of credit transfer, additional prerequisites, and multiple applications and institutions.

But Elevated and Accelerated provides automatic acceptance (upon application, 3.0+ GPA and the meeting of program-specific criteria) to Western RRCC students who have earned associate’s degrees.

Students spend the first of their three Elevated and Accelerated years at Western taking undergraduate courses. They spend their second Western year commencing graduate coursework while completing their bachelor’s degree. In their final year, they complete their master’s degree from Western’s School of Graduate Studies.

This saves RRCC students who hope to pursue a master’s education at least one full year and many thousands of dollars in tuition and other expenses, while continuing their studies on Western’s Gunnison campus, surrounded by majestic mountains and rivers yet easily accessible from Colorado’s Front Range.

“As our Graduate Studies programs grow in size and number, this new program helps students in diverse circumstances find their formula to success,” said Abel Chávez, Ph.D., vice president of student success and dean of Western’s School of Graduate Studies. “That may be an accelerated 3+2 master’s pursuit entirely at Western, a 2+1+2 path such as Elevated and Accelerated that helps RRCC students to obtain three degrees in five years, or another program at a pace that works best for that student’s academic journey.”

“Many students starting at RRCC are first-generation students, and may not have the educational background to know the significance of obtaining a master’s degree,” said Nicole Lacroix, dean of instruction. “This partnership will provide a pathway for students, including advising, transition services, and possible tuition assistance. RRCC and Western are focused on the educational advancement and academic success of our students.”

Starting in the 2020-21 academic year, Western will offer Elevated and Accelerated master’s degree paths to RRCC associate’s degree candidates in disciplines that include:

Some of these programs are residential on Western’s Gunnison campus, while others are offered through remote or hybrid residency.

While it is increasingly common to see accelerated master’s programs in fields such as engineering or business, it is rare for accelerated options to be available in many disciplines Western offers—some of which are unique or rare (the Outdoor Industry MBA is the first of its kind in the U.S.) in any form.

Elevated and Accelerated provides a novel master’s degree path in a time in which efficiency of credential completion, tuition affordability, preparation for high-growth fields, and minimization of student debt are high priorities among state and national stakeholders. The new partnership is aligned with Gov. Jared Polis’ new “Roadmap to Containing College Costs and Making College Affordable,” and Chávez said he hopes the RRCC partnership will soon be expanded to more of Colorado’s community colleges.

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