HOUGHTON - Six Upper Peninsula institutions of higher learning are taking the lead in a program intended to help increase the percentage of residents with associate degrees.
The program, which includes Bay College in Escanaba, Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan Technological University in Houghton and Finlandia University in Hancock, will allow students to "reverse transfer" credits earned toward a bachelor's degree back to an institution where they began, but didn't finish course work for an associate degree.
Glenn Mroz, president of Tech, said there is growing interest in the reverse transfer concept nationally and in Michigan.
"A lot of people will start a two-year degree at a community college then transfer to a four-year before finishing," he said.
Mroz said having an associate degree listed on a resum, even with a bachelor's or master's degree, impresses some potential employers.
"It's a very competitive market place," he said. "Employers are looking for people with a broad range of experience and education."
The idea for the six-school collaboration came from the president of Gogebic Community College, James A. Lorenson, Mroz said.
"He said this would be a great idea," Mroz said. "We figured we'd initiate this."
The reverse transfer program went into effect at the six institutions this school year, Mroz said.
"It's a real plus for the students of the U.P. schools," he said.
Philip Johnson, president of Finlandia University, said the agreement to do the reverse transfer came out of continuing conversations the six presidents have to find ways to better collaborate with each other.
"This is not only a great initiative, it's an indication something more is coming," he said.
The program will help to increase the number of U.P. residents with associate degrees, Johnson said.
"I hate to see academic credits go to waste," he said.
Although the six institutions are always looking for students separately, Johnson said collaborating will help all of them.
"We are in a competitive environment," he said. "It's going to be more competitive."
Johnson said there is no further cost for students to transfer credits toward their associate degrees, Johnson said.
The reverse transfer concept is gaining momentum in the country, Johnson said, so it's good for the U.P. institutions to get involved sooner rather than later.
"It is beginning to happen more deliberately," he said.