If someone were looking to complete his or her bachelor’s degree, it seems only logical that he or she would seek out a program specifically designed to help with this process. Yet many prospective students are not even aware that such an option exists, or may question the authenticity of a non-traditional program.
Degree completion programs at non-profit schools provide the same level of difficulty, the same calibre of instructors, and the same access to resources as traditional degree programs. The difference lies in the scheduling of the courses, the cohort demographics - and in some cases - the method of delivery. As with traditional courses of study, degree completion programs can offer a credential in a singular discipline, such as psychology, or can be interdisciplinary, such as a Bachelor of Professional Studies.
The College of Charleston School of Professional Studies (SPS) offers a degree completion option in its Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) program: a course of study designed to help non-traditional students achieve a healthy school/life balance.
“Non-traditional student” is an umbrella term referring to any student who does not fit the profile of a traditional college student; meaning, non-traditional students can come from a variety of academic backgrounds. Some may have attended a four-year college for several consecutive semesters, others may have taken courses sporadically over the years. Others still may have recently completed an associate’s degree at a two-year college. A non-traditional student’s age can range anywhere from 20 to 90+ years.
If you have some college coursework under your belt, and are looking for an alternative to a traditional degree program, consider what a degree completion program might have to offer:
Depending on their academic history, prospective non-traditional students can have concerns about the state of their transcripts, and the potential acceptance of transfer credits.
There are many scenarios that can lead a student’s transcripts to be all over the map: a student may have chosen a particular major as a freshman, only to change direction a few semesters later; or perhaps he or she enrolled in a seemingly random assortment of electives while trying to settle on a course of study.
The BPS degree completion program offered at the College of Charleston is an interdisciplinary course of study firmly rooted in the liberal arts tradition, and allows students to choose from 4 areas of concentration. This means that in addition to general education requirements (Communications, Humanities and Fine Arts, Mathematics, Nature Science, Social Science), students may find that they can transfer in credits from a variety of subject areas, such as communications, business, psychology, economics, and information systems. The concentration areas not only allow students to adapt their course of study to best incorporate their previous academic work, but also to target their own interests and career aspirations.
Students can have their transcripts evaluated prior to enrolling in the program, with the potential for up to 90 credit hours being eligible for transfer into the BPS program (60 hours from a two-year college).
For most prospective degree-completion candidates, the idea of leaving one’s job to go back to school is out of the question, particularly since there are few full-tuition scholarships available to non-traditional students. Degree completion programs typically address this concern by offering flexible scheduling designed to accommodate students’ full-time employment. The BPS program, for example, offers courses in online, hybrid, and express-delivery formats, and provides classroom-based instruction on evenings and weekends.
Another financial hurdle that many degree completion programs try to circumvent, is the fee structure usually associated with traditional programs. Traditional college students are typically assessed a few for a range of services - from the student health center to athletic events - yet many non-traditional students do not make use of these services. The College of Charleston is one of the institutions that has acknowledged this discrepancy, and have adjusted the tuition for their degree completion program accordingly. Students in the BPS program pay approximately 20% less tuition than traditional students at the CofC.
Since most non-traditional students are already engaged in the workforce, degree completion programs will often design curricula that help to instill applicable knowledge and skills. Whether through courses that specifically target industry-related skills - such as Healthcare Operations Management - or those that develop more transferable skills - such as Professional Presentations - students in degree completion programs often find that they are able to immediately implement newfound knowledge and abilities.
Within the concentrations in the BPS program, students are offered a variety of electives, allowing them to choose the skill areas which are most relevant to their chosen profession. Immediately applying skills to the workplace helps students to deepen their understanding of the subject area, and can present opportunities for career advancement.
Degree completion programs, like any other course of study, will vary by institution, and not every program will be appropriate for every non-traditional student. The Bachelor of Professional Studies program for example, is well suited for students who are looking to enter - or advance within - communications, leadership, or management fields, as well as those who are looking to go on to further study in these areas. Students considering any degree completion program are encouraged to thoroughly research the program requirements, and consult with the program’s academic advisor(s). The chosen program should ultimately make best use of transfer credits, meet the student’s scheduling needs, and help the student to achieve his or her particular goals.
Whether returning to school after time away, or building on an associate’s degree, pursuing a degree completion program is a big step toward a better future. Prospective students are encouraged to further explore what the BPS program has to offer, and reach out to the SPS with any questions or concerns.