Kentucky Community and Technical College System Higher Education Breakthrough Models

Kentucky Community and Technical College System application video

Program Name: Direct2Degree
Targeted Degree Program: Arts/Science: General Studies, transferable to all Kentucky public institutions
Organizations: Six Kentucky public two-year institutions
First-Year Enrollment: 300
Anticipated Students Served in First Five Years: 10,583
Tuition Model: New model to be designed with NCHEMS; a subscription model is under consideration.
Geographies Served: Kentucky, emphasizing rural areas
Targeted Students: Lower-income rural students
Project Partners: National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)

Kentucky Community and Technical College System will transform a current online program, Learn on Demand, to create an even more more time-efficient and cost-effective model, Direct2Degree. The transformation will have two aspects: streamlining the academic model to speed the rate at which students can progress and reworking the tuition model to ensure the most efficient use of student tuition dollars and financial aid to reward ongoing progress.

The model responds to genuine needs in Kentucky, where high numbers of people live in poverty, for a more educated work force. Only 29% of Kentuckians presently have college degrees, compared to a national average of 38%. Yet 54% of the jobs likely to be created in Kentucky between 2008 and 2018 will require college degrees.   Those who successfully complete an associate’s degree in the Direct2Degree program can do so with the assurance that their degree will be accepted for transfer by any public institution in the state of Kentucky.

In transforming Learn on Demand to meet these goals, Kentucky will move from a model in which full-time students in online programs take three or four courses over each 15-week academic term to one in which students take one module at a time, with a goal of mastering the material it includes.

In the new program, each general education course is broken into two to three modules, each of which has defined competencies and pre- and post-module assessments to ensure that students understand the content of the module before they go forward.  Students work through the models sequentially, completing each in a dramatically shorter period of time and progressing at their own pace, without stopping for term breaks. Faculty assess the progress of individual students using pre-designed instruments and rubrics. At the same time, dedicated success coaches based at the six campuses offering this program will provide intensive support for students via videoconferencing and other online communication tools. Since Direct2Degree is offered entirely online, students will be able to participate from anywhere that they are located.

Direct2Degree’s business practices innovations will come in the form of new tuition models that provide motivation for students to progress as quickly as possible by rewarding those who complete early with reductions in tuition and by offering new models for the awarding of financial aid.  The specific new model or models to be used will be determined in the course of the project. Project leaders will work with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) to test several different structures by which this reduction in tuition might be achieved, such as a subscription model or flat-rate scenario, constructing a cost analysis model to test different tuition, student aid and college savings scenarios.  Other programs in other states will also be able to use the analysis model to develop their own new approaches to tuition and financial aid. The model will also allow an increased understanding of the effect of reducing student time to complete modules and earn degrees on the prices of degrees for students and on the costs of providing instruction for the colleges.