Alan Jefferson, a 49-year-old banker from Ellicott City, will be able to realize a lifelong dream -- receiving a bachelor's degree -- while enrolled as a Howard Community College student.
HCC students such as Jefferson will soon be able to reap the benefits of a partnership between HCC and Excelsior College, a four-year online school in Albany, N.Y.
"It's something I feel I should have done," said Jefferson, who dropped out of the University of Maryland, College Park in 1978. "It's something that I want to check off my list. I owe it to myself."
The partnership, which was announced yesterday, will enable HCC students to earn up to 90 credits that can be applied toward a bachelor's degree at Excelsior, a private, nonprofit school that changed its name from Regents College in 2001. The school enrolls more than 28,000 students nationwide.
HCC students typically attend the school for two years, earning 60 credits for an associate's degree. Under the new partnership, students will be able to remain at HCC for an additional 30 credits.
HCC students will then be able to earn the remaining credits toward their bachelor's degree by taking online courses and completing special credit examinations, in which they can earn credit for life experiences.
Bachelor's degrees will be offered in business, technology, liberal arts, nursing and health science.
HCC students will pay less tuition over the course of their undergraduate experience. For the first 90 credits, they will pay $114 per credit, compared with the $290 that Excelsior College charges its students. For the remaining 30 credits, HCC students will pay $250 per credit hour, which is the discounted rate that Excelsior College charges military personnel.
"We provide the validation and the aggregation of the credits," said John Ebersole, president of Excelsior College, who attended yesterday's announcement in Columbia.
The program is ideal for nontraditional students such as Jefferson, officials from both schools said. In addition, the schools are hoping to attract military personnel. The Baltimore area is an ideal location for Excelsior College, officials say, because of the national military base realignment process known as BRAC.
"The program gives a lot of flexibility for people trying to advance their education," said Kate Hetherington, president of HCC. "This is a unique opportunity" for students.
The program was initiated last year by former President Mary Ellen Duncan, who is a native of New York state. Yesterday, Hetherington officially signed the partnership agreement.
HCC is beginning to accept students for the program. Information session will be held at the school Sept. 20, Oct. 18 and Nov. 15. Ebersole said that HCC students will be able to begin classes as soon as November.
The program will be advantageous for HCC because it will help with retention, Hetherington said.
"[Students] will have more opportunities for affordable options -- lower tuition rates and a reduction in fees," she said.
Jefferson, who wants to pursue a history degree, said he is ready to begin the program.
"I want to beat my [15-year-old] daughter to the stage," he said with a chuckle.