95 ENROLLED; PEAK WAS 120
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – To Brittany Hall of Milford, Hartwick College’s three-year-degree program – now marking its 10th anniversary – isn’t just about saving $40,000 on a bachelor’s degree, although that’s enticement enough.
Before making her decision, she scouted all nursing programs within an hour, and realized the hour commute each day would prevent her from working part time while in school.
Now in her third year, the daughter of Cynthia and Mark Miller spends one day a week in classes – a 15-minute drive away – and two days, 12 hours each, in a practicum at Bassett Hospital – 15 minutes in the other direction.
Because of the convenience, on one of her Bassett days she’s still able to scoot into Oneonta and collaborate with teammates in preparing their senior thesis, “Music Therapy and Pediatrics.
A Milford Central School graduate, Brittany learned what Hartwick had to offer from MCS classmate Neala Havener, daughter for Jeanne-Marie Havener, the college’s former director of the nursing program.
Originally, she intended to get her associate’s degree, then work while studying for her bachelor’s. But the profession is evolving, she concluded: You’ll soon need a bachelor’s for jobs you can do with an associate’s today; and a master’s for what you can now do with a bachelor’s.
In three years at Hartwick, she was able to hopscotch ahead. “I was able to get to my end goal faster,” she said, “and that was important to me.”
When Margaret L. Drugovich arrived on Oyaron Hill as president in 2008, the three-year degree was one of her priority initiatives. “It was our responsibility to offer it,” she had concluded in her previous 10 years as Ohio Wesleyan’s vice president for enrollment and strategic communications.
She had seen how parents wanted their children to experience a Liberal Arts education in a private college like Hartwick, and how they struggled financially to achieve it.
In 2009-10, the first year, 22 members of the college’s freshman class joined in the three-year program. This year, 95 are enrolled over four years. The peak year, 120 students participated.
That’s about 6-8 percent of the study body. “We’d like to have that higher – 15 percent,” Drugovich said.
The three-year degree creates internal challenges for faculty, in particular setting up the sequence of classes so requirements can be met in less than four years.
“We didn’t tell academic departments that they had to participate,” according to the president. Nonetheless, they stepped up: 27 or the 35 courses of study are participating.
And subject matter is widespread, in nursing, biology, psychology, poli-sci, business. In three- and four-year programs alike, “year in, year out, these are our most popular majors,” she said.
Sensitivity to student finances has brought results in other ways that might surprise many people: For instance, 40 percent of Hartwick students receive federal Pell grants that are based on income eligibility.
“They need us to deliver their education as economically as possible,” Drugovich said. “Economic diversity – we see it on this campus.”
As Brittany Hall pointed out, tuition savings isn’t the only motivation. Participants include students who know what they want to do, and know an advance degree is required. “They want to enter their careers early,” said the president.
As case in point: Lauren Gifford, also in her final year of three.
She was salutatorian of her Deposit Central School class, and a standout field hockey and softball player with lots of community service through her and her mom Mary Kay Gifford’s involvement in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in her hometown.
As for motivation, she’d earned 35 college credits by the time she got her high school diploma.
“I was interested in Hartwick,” she recounted while working the cash register at Table Rock, the on-campus convenience store. “At some point in my tour, I found out about the three-year program. I was very interested in that.”
It was a “huge factor” in her decision, and she’s focused, staying on campus during Hartwick’s January study-abroad program and completing a semester-long course in three weeks.
Nonetheless, she’s experienced campus life. She’s a teaching assistant in the “Introduction to Psychology” course, works in the psych research lab, tutors writing, and is a member of the Theta Phi Alpha sorority.
She hopes to be a school counselor and, if she wishes on graduation, can immediately go into a master’s program.
“I haven’t found there are any downsides to the three-program,” she said.