As construction gets underway on Elizabethtown Community and Technical College’s new Leitchfield campus, another university is already offering students the chance to complete an associates degree locally.
Mid-Continent University has been offering its “Advantage” program in Leitchfield for about four years now. Designed for non-traditional students, the program allows participants to earn an associate of science degree with an emphasis in Business Administration, in about 24 months.
Mid-Continent is a private Christian college based in Mayfield. It began offering the Advantage program in 1999, gearing the program toward working adults whose job and family responsibilities prevent them from taking traditional classes.
Classes are offered in an accelerated format, with students taking one course at a time. Traditional classes meet one night per week, generally from 6 to 10 p.m. Students also have the option of taking courses online.
“We’re the only face-to-face option for a whole degree available locally,” said Jackie Imhoff, the university’s vice president of adult programs.
Billy Pitts, a military liaison with Mid-Continent who recently was in Leitchfield for an information session, said students can also complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees through the Advantage program. Those levels of instruction aren’t currently available locally, however.
Imhoff said a group of six Leitchfield students are carpooling to Bardstown to take the Advantage bachelor’s-level program.
Mid-Continent’s second group of Leitchfield Advantage students are enrolled now, with several expected to complete their degrees late this year, Imhoff and Pitts said.
There are 21 students enrolled in the local classes, Imhoff said.
Pitts said in-classroom courses run on a 20-week block term, much like a traditional college semester. A new term will start after the first of the year. Online courses start about every 10 weeks, he said.
Choosing one instructional format over the other “just depends on the person’s needs and preferences and scheduling,” he said. Some people find it helps their understanding and retention of material to take courses in person, while others can learn just as easily online.
Advantage students must be at least 22 years old with two years of work experience to start the associate’s program, and at least 24 years old with two years of work experience and 45 college credit hours to start the bachelor’s program.
Pitts said the university, which is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, works with prospective students to help them fill out the paperwork for financial aid programs. Advantage students, on average, graduate with lower student debt levels than at most Kentucky colleges. Associate- and bachelor-level courses in the program cost $315 per credit hour.
According to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, Mid-Continent has seen its overall enrollment grow nearly 400 percent since 2000, making it the state’s fastest-growing university.
Besides its Mayfield campus, it operates 30 satellite campuses in Kentucky and Illinois. The university focuses mostly on business-related degrees, as well as a few theological programs in line with its Southern Baptist affiliation.
Imhoff said the university’s goal is to remove barriers for students in rural areas to access higher education.
“Sometimes it can be hard for a community to upgrade its educational level,” she said. “Our goal is to provide a convenient and affordable way for working people to earn a degree.”