Students in two bachelor’s programs at Aquinas College now can earn subsequent master’s degrees from Western Michigan University in one year.
An agreement signed Feb. 20 allows Aquinas engineering and industrial chemistry four-year degree graduates to transfer some credits to WMU’s respective Master of Science degree programs, shortening them by a year, according to Heather Kesselring-Quakenbush, Aquinas associate provost.
Current seniors may be able to take advantage as early as this fall.
Kevin Quinn, Aquinas president, said the admissions staff is excited to share the news with current and prospective students. He said he believes the program will be attractive because it saves students money, gets them into the workplace faster and increases the likelihood of receiving higher starting salaries.
Quinn said Aquinas does not have graduate programs and there are no plans of starting one because it would be expensive, and there are so many successful programs already in the area.
“Why do we want to reinvent the wheel?” Quinn said. “So why not do the thing that we really do well and partner with folks do something else really well?”
He added: “I think part of being smart in the business that we're in in higher education and part of our commitment to doing the best we can for a region calls us to do this.”
Students enrolled in the program can transfer a maximum of 12 credits with grades of B or better to WMU, including a maximum of six non-entry-level credits. Students may obtain a maximum of six WMU graduate credits by examination, based on advanced-level coursework at Aquinas, as long as results are grades B or better.
Details about which credits are transferable and can be earned through examination vary depending on the program.
Students will be able to complete the two programs in five years if they acquire and transfer the maximum 12 credits and then complete nine graduate credit hours per semester. Additional time would be needed for programs that are greater than 30 credit hours or if fewer credits are completed per semester.
Aquinas students interested in the program will work with Aquinas and WMU admissions counselors or academic advisors.
Students may apply for acceptance in WMU’s graduate school during their sophomore year. Students applying to the chemistry program are eligible for a WMU application fee and GRE fee waiver.
Graduate classes will take place on WMU campuses in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids.
Aquinas and WMU officials have been developing the new framework for the past year. Kesselring-Quakenbush said they decided to implement science programs first, especially with the new Aquinas STEM building underway.
“I would expect that this and the new facility are going to have a measurable difference,” Quinn said. “We didn't invest $32 million in a science facility to have the same number of students on campus.”
Elizabeth Jensen, chair of the Aquinas chemistry department, said there are about 20 students enrolled in the undergrad program.
She said most manufacturers in West Michigan and beyond employ a chemist or team of chemists necessary to develop specified, as well as everyday products, like shampoo, toothpaste, pharmaceuticals and plastics.
She said a bachelor’s degree allows graduates to get a job, but a master’s degree would give them a better chance for leadership positions earlier.
Three more programs are in development, with the goal of five to 10 in total. There are conversations now about adding programs for geography, math, economics and music, according to Susan Stapleton, dean of the WMU graduate college. Aquinas has 1,900 students and more than 60 academic programs.
“We're going to look at every opportunity that makes sense for Western and for us,” Quinn said.