University launches new online degree completion program

Lachlan Loudon, The Yellow Jacket

Waynesburg University launched a new program this fall, and it is an online degree completion program offered to students. 

Jessica Sumpter, director of Online Programs, said the program is designed for students who are in a position in their life where living on or commuting to campus in order to receive an education is difficult. 

“People are coming from a variety of different life circumstances,” Sumpter said.

Those intending to enroll in the program are required to have at least 24 college credits under their belt, putting them under the freshman level category.

With the program, Sumpter said there are several different ways to earn credits: a bachelor of arts in administration with business, criminal justice and professional studies. 

Professional studies, Sumpter explained, is when someone has obtained a lot of life experience in their job field, and they want to “translate” their experience into a degree. Sumpter said a majority of students in the program, as of now, are enrolling in business administration.

Although the program is small, Sumpter said there are definitely plans to expand it and add more to it if there is interest. 

“We would have to see growth in those other areas before we start adding more majors on, but definitely a possibility if people are interested in it – it would be something we look forward to in the future,” Sumpter said.

Another quality that is unique about the program, Sumpter said, since it is fully online, is that the program is flexible, tailored and individualized to each student. The program is designed to accommodate even someone who may be in a full-time job.

“It makes it flexible for those working adults that are managing multiple life priorities,” Sumpter said.

The online program is accelerated, meaning it condenses the normal 16-week content of a class down to five weeks. The five-week courses are three credits each, which Sumpter said students can only take one course at a time within the five-week span.

Sumpter said it is designed this way so students are able to focus on one course, but also complete them in an accelerated fashion.

Sumpter said in regards to the graduate and professional studies team, they always keep an eye out for trends. They noticed an increase in “post-traditional” students. “Post-traditional” meaning not the typical freshman that just graduated high school,  goes right into college and completes their degree within four years. 

Sumpter additionally said the post-traditional student is becoming more popular and marketable than the traditional student.

Marketing towards the post-traditional students is different than a traditional student. Sumpter said they are utilizing a radio marketing strategy and broadcasting in the Pittsburgh market. Another marketing tool that Waynesburg University uses to their advantage is the community of students and word-of-mouth. 

“Our students are the best referrals,” she said.

Sumpter said the program allows more people to obtain an education that most likely could not set aside the time to do so, if it were not offered online.

“One of the most rewarding factors is being able to have education accessible to people that education may be wouldn’t be accessible to otherwise,” Sumpter said. 

There are resources also made available to online students that help them navigate the course, shows them the standards to expect and assists them in getting help and properly communicating with the professor teaching the course. 

There are also online campus options made available to them, in addition to having access to the on-campus library, and other facets on campus to aid in their online education experience.