Students from the Bell County area will get a chance to receive a four-year bachelor’s degree from the University of Pikeville from the comfort of their hometown. UPike announced on Thursday that the university will be partnering with Southeastern Kentucky Community and Technical College by opening an extension office at the Middlesboro campus, along with eight other areas. The eight other counties include: Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin and Pike.
“If (the new program) helps Bell and Harlan students — I’m all for it,” said state Rep. Rick Nelson.
Students will receive this chance through the Kentucky Coal County College Completion Scholarship. Students must be a graduate of a high school in one of the aforementioned counties and have earned at least 60 college credit hours that will lead to a bachelor’s degree.
The scholarship will be equal to 40 percent of the difference between the tuition and the total state and federal aid a student receives. This scholarship could be as much as $6,820 a year at UPike for a student who receives no state or federal financial aid, according to UPike president Paul Patton.
If students pursue the four-year degree at the Middlesboro UPike extension office, the price will be reduced compared to a student that would be pursing the same degree on the UPike campus.
“In southeastern Kentucky, we have a low bachelors obtaining rate, which means we have a lot of folks with a four-year degree,” said state Rep. Leslie Combs. “In southeast Kentucky, we have more students applying and going to college.”
Combs stated that the area has students going to college, but they are not receiving a four-year degree. This is the reason why this move was made. There are 18 Bell County area students that are currently enrolled at UPike.
According to Combs, 63 percent of Bell County students apply for college. Of that 63 percent, 10 percent receive a four-year degree.
“If your desire is to get that four-year degree at Southeast (Technical and Community College), you can now do that,” said Combs.
The UPike extension office in Middlesboro will open in the fall. The fall semester begins on Aug. 20. UPike will offer 12 credit hours of upper division courses that will lead to a bachelor’s degree at the extension campuses.
To start the program off, there will only be two bachelor programs that will be offered at the Middlesboro location. Those two programs will be decided on by the community. There is a survey that is located at the Upike website (www.upike.edu) where individuals can vote on the two majors that will be offered.
Currently, the choice has been narrowed to five: criminal justice, communications, business administration with an emphasis on health care administration, business administration with an emphasis in information technology and general business administration.
People will also get an input on the times they will be offered. Classes can be offered during the day, night or on the weekend.
There are plans to announce the chosen program within the next two weeks. Each bachelor program can be finished on a two- or four-year basis after 60 credit hours is obtained.
The classes will be taught in an interactive classroom. The professor will be rotating between actual classrooms in different counties throughout the year. There is a 20 student requirement (between four counties) for each major for the new extension program to work. This means that each county would have to have five students enrolled in the program for the program to work.
In addition to opening the extension office, counselors from UPike will be going into the area high schools to help students with questions about college. There will be representatives from UPike at Southeast at least once a week until the extension office opens to help students with questions and services as well. Individuals will be able to pick up a survey at the school.
Though Upike and Southeast will be helping the same group of students, the two entities are working together and not competing for students. UPike will only be offering the courses that are needed for a four-year degree that a community college, by law, cannot offer.
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.