SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Students who left college just shy of meeting the graduation requirements are completing their degrees through a fledgling Missouri State University program.
The program only admits current or former students in good academic standing who have completed 75 or more college credits, the Springfield News-Leader reports.
"We want to help people finish college and achieve their goals," said Rachelle Darabi, who oversees the program.
In the first year, 35 students graduated through the new Bachelor of General Studies interdisciplinary degree program, which requires completion of coursework in two or three departments in place of one specific major.
Darabi said that as the program grows, it will ramp up efforts to reach out to more of the estimated 4,800 students who have left Missouri State with 100 or more credits — but no degree — in the past 10 years. The minimum number of credits for a bachelor's degree is 125.
"The joy you see with the graduates and their families, it literally makes you want to cry," she said. "You know you have changed the trajectory of their lives and maybe the trajectory of their family."
In developing the program, the university borrowed best practices from similar programs elsewhere and added a few requirements.
Amy Marie Aufdembrink, assistant director for interdisciplinary programs, meets with prospective students. They must fill out an application, meet GPA requirements, obtain a faculty or staff endorsement, go through a transcript audit and write an essay about their educational journey. If admitted, she or another adviser will help the student come up with a plan to finish.
In a few rare cases, applicants had more than enough credits for the Bachelor of General Studies degree but didn't know until they applied.
One participant is Bethany Hornbeck, who had to withdraw from college after a brain tumor was discovered. Upon returning, the 23-year-old didn't want to complete the teaching and psychology majors she had started. She was accepted for the new program and discovered the interdisciplinary approach meant she could take classes that aligned with her new career goal of helping college students with disabilities better navigate campus life. She plans to graduate in May.
"What I thought would just get me done has become a dream," said Hornbeck, who has hearing loss. "We were able to identify what classes I wanted to take for my career outcomes."