New programs offer graduate credit for undergrad courses

Students looking to continue their education after graduation now have a new option on campus: earning credit for a master’s degree while still taking undergraduate classes. 

Accelerated degree programs in various different departments allow students to begin a master’s or doctoral degree while still enrolled as an undergraduate. 

Director of Graduate Education Jill Smucker said she is excited by the new accelerated program additions to campus.

“The new graduate programs beginning this fall include: civil engineering, computer science, criminal justice policy, English - literature, English - teaching English as a second language, environmental sciences, healthcare and nursing administration, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, media studies, nurse educator and nursing practice - family nurse practitioner” Smucker said. 

Jerry Weinberg, associate provost for research and dean of the Graduate School, said he believes the newly added accelerated programs offer students various benefits, both financially and professionally.

“The real benefit is being able to leave here with a master’s degree,” Weinberg said. “It gives them the opportunity to go into their profession at a higher pay rate, obtain higher management jobs and accelerate their career.”

Students enrolled in an accelerated course of study receive unique opportunities not offered to traditional undergraduate students, Weinberg said.

“The accelerated option is really a good way of being able to get your bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years,” Weinberg said. “It’s sort of a four plus one. So students, what these options allow you to do is during your senior year, you can take courses that can count both towards your undergraduate degree and your graduate degree.”

The dual credit option allows students to complete coursework in a shorter time frame than previously allowed.

“There are a number of courses — these are 400 level courses — which are approved for both undergraduate and graduate credit,” Weinberg said. “Prior to the undergraduate degree, you had to say ‘OK, I’m taking this for graduate credit’, and then you would need to do additional work to get that graduate credit. If you’re in the accelerated program, you do it at the graduate level and it also counts at the undergraduate level.”

Students choosing to receive dual credit for a course are permitted to stay at the undergraduate rate for financial costs, according to Weinberg. In addition to the benefits of dual enrollment, students are eligible for other forms of financial assistance and compensation.

“They would be eligible for the graduate scholarships we have available,” Weinberg said. “Also, the benefit is that students in the accelerated program, during their last semester of bachelor’s work are eligible to hold a graduate assistantship.”

The newly introduced programs are currently taking effect and beginning to attract some students, according to Weinberg.

“The accelerated option is very new,” Weinberg said. “We just started. We had to go through a number of steps to make sure we were within the regulations of our accrediting body. We are now getting students enrolled in the programs. Probably the biggest enrollment is in nursing.”

Among the students currently pursuing an education in nursing, senior nursing major Kathleen Antos, of Crest Hill, Illinois, wishes she had been able to take advantage of the accelerated degree program.

“If the program had been available to me as a freshman, I would have signed up immediately,” Antos said. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity.”

Since some students are excited by the programs, the university intends to recruit undergraduate students by marketing the accelerated degrees.

“One of the things we hope that we will be able to do is use this as a recruitment tool,” Weinberg said. “When we let parents know about our programs, those that have accelerated options, we can say your son or daughter has the ability to leave here both with their bachelor’s and master’s degree with only one extra year of work.”

According to Weinberg, the university plans to continue expanding upon accelerated program options.

For more information about the graduate programs and doctoral programs at SIUE, visit https://www.siue.edu/graduate-admissions/programs/index.shtml

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