Through a new partnership with Western Governors University, Lower Columbia College will add eight new options for students looking to continue their higher education at home.

WGU joins three other universities in the Lower Columbia Regional University Center, an on-campus program that provides “local opportunities for four-year degrees and beyond,” said LCC President Chris Bailey.

LCC partners directly with those universities to offer degree programs students can earn without leaving Cowlitz County or making lengthy commutes. The university center provides a “local presence” for these programs so students can “meet with a human” for advising, tutoring and other degree-related needs, Bailey said. Most often, the programs can be completed online.

Although WGU wasn’t officially part of of the university center last year, it was one of the the top five transfer schools for LCC students. Adding WGU to the university center “provides greater access to the school of those students picking that pathway already,” Bailey said.

Additionally, the partnership allows WGU students to use on-site resources at LCC. For example, students could choose to study in the LCC library or visit the on-campus University Center for face-to-face advising and tutoring — options that previously weren’t available for students who transferred to WGU, Bailey said.

LCC students can earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, business, information technology and teaching through the WGU partnership. The university center will also add WGU’s master degree programs in those four areas.

LCC already offers its own four-year degree in teaching, but the WGU partnership will provide students with a “different pathway” that might be better suited to their schedules or their learning style, Bailey said.

The same is true for the other degree programs, many of which are available through LCC”s existing partners.

“WGU is a unique model in that rather than set time frames, they allow students to work at a self-paced model. If they, for example, can’t do work for a period of two weeks, they can catch up. Or if they want to quickly complete courses and then go to the next course, they can do that on their own time,” Bailey said. “Many online environments you still have to turn in weekly work, or work on specific days. This is still the self-paced model.”

LCC will host a “partnership kickoff” event on April 17 in the LCC library building lobby. WGU representatives will be on hand to meet with prospective students and answer questions about the degree programs. Bailey and WGU Washington Chancellor Tonya Drake will also speak publicly about the partnership. Drake is a Cowlitz County native and LCC graduate.

“She brings that knowledge of the demographics we service, the type of students we serve and the needs we have in the community,” Bailey said. “I think she really understands how WGU will work with our students.”

“We are really excited to work with WGU … and we are really excited to work with her again.”

The opening ceremony for the event starts at 11 a.m. and will be followed by an open house from noon to 2 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

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