During President Barack Obama’s visit to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo., on Wednesday, 17 students will sit behind him on stage as a representation of a new class of students jumping on board a streamlined path to their career.
Obama plans to tout a new program those 17 students are involved in. It’s designed by the University of Central Missouri, Metropolitan Community College and the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, and falls in line with Obama’s goal to reduce the costs of education and get students ready for the workforce.
But the Missouri Innovation Campus provides a type of curriculum unlike many others.
It’s a venture between the University of Central Missouri, Metropolitan Community College and the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District. It began with a conversation between UCM President Chuck Ambrose and local business partners — including DST Systems Inc., Cerner Corp, Saint Luke’s Health System, Kansas City Power & Light Co., Black & Veatch and others — about the gap in time it took to get graduates workforce ready.
“Our business partners were still spending a lot of time doing the training for these recent graduates, and they were graduating with a lot of debt,” said Elaine Metcalf, director of the Summit Technology Academy. “Now they’re helping define the curriculum. Our first degree program, systems engineering technology, was written by Cerner and DST folks. They’re the ones that said students need to know these things and came up with more than 300 competencies that students would need to explore before getting their bachelor’s.”
Metcalf said entry into the program must begin with high school sophomores who are interested in pursuing a career in information technology or engineering. If they meet the GPA and attendance requirements, the first step is getting accepted into Summit Technology Academy, where during their junior and senior years, they’ll attend half of the day, and spend the other half at their home high schools. During that half day, they’ll take a combination of online and face-to-face courses through the University of Central Missouri and Metropolitan Community College and earn dual credits, which earn students both high school and college credit. By the time students graduate from high school, they’ll obtain an associates degree.
After the high school students’ junior year, business partners will invite students to complete an 8-week paid summer internship. Then during their high school senior year, students will continue to work at the companies for two days a week, followed by another 8-week summer internship.
“That model was one that our business partners were insistent upon,” Metcalf said. “Most of the time they just had interns there in the summer; Our partners didn’t want that big of a gap. By the time they get their bachelor’s, they’ll have three years of an internship and hopefully be taking on more challenging tasks. By that time, chances are that they will be ready and want to stay in the same company.”
After graduating high school while simultaneously obtaining their associates degree, students then move on to the University of Central Missouri, where they’ll pay the standard $213 per credit hour for in-state tuition, or $426 for out-of-state tuition.
“While we might not be able to eliminate student debt completely, we can cut it at least in half,” Metcalf said. “I’ve been in education a long time and this is the first time I’ve ever seen a university, community college, a school district and industry partners get together and say ‘How can we make this a better route for students?'”
The program already has 16 students enrolled in its second cohort, and is still accepting applications. And the program isn’t restricted to those only in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District — Metcalf said even homeschooled students can attend.
“It’s not an easy path,” Metcalf said. “It takes a bright young mind.”
The campus is still putting out RFQs for developers to construct a building to house the Missouri Innovations Campus, and though it initially sought to find one by mid-March, it’s still looking.
Metcalf said the program’s next addition will be degrees in the health care field.
Autumn covers retail and creates Web stories and other online content.