Some professions require an advanced degree to gain employment, but some students dream of pushing the boundaries and advancing their professional skillset.
The Graduate School at Lenoir-Rhyne University is building bridges to those dreams.
Through the Bridges to Dreams program, LR offers undergraduate students an opportunity to dual enroll taking as many as 12 graduate level credit hours that count towards both their undergraduate and graduate degrees.
"What we found was that a lot of students were pursuing minors or double majors," said Dr. Amy Wood, assistant provost and dean of graduate and adult education. "We wanted to give them the opportunity to advance their degree."
First implemented in 2015, the dual enrollment program features two tracks.
Through one path, undergraduate and graduate degrees are aligned. If a business major seeks to join the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, those classes directly correlate. The other path offers options to students who don't know what they want to do after graduation or have changed their interest. For example, a student may have a bachelor's degree in history and want to pursue a graduate degree in counseling.
"I did it so I could get a jump on graduate classes," said MBA student and football standout Grayson Willingham. "I really enjoy the layout of the schedule and the flexibility it gives. With smaller classes sizes, the relationships in class are more tightly knit, and you know everyone is there to get something out of the class."
The time savings is easy to calculate. Complete 12 credits toward a 36-credit hour degree, and the time frame between beginning and completing graduate school shortens by nearly a full year.
"I graduated in May," said LR alumna Cortney Hildebran '20. "I was part of Bridges to Dreams, and I took classes over the summer. I should be able to graduate again this spring with my MBA."
Eligible students are able to apply for admission to the dual enrollment program in October or March of the academic year when they reach 92 undergraduate credit hours, including 64 credit hours from Lenoir-Rhyne. Prospective students must have a grade-point average of at least 3.25 and be in good standing within the university.
"We know that in order to distinguish yourself in the workplace, a master's degree is essential," Wood said.
In a study by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees with a master's degree earn between $10,000 and $80,000 more a year depending on their discipline.
At Lenoir-Rhyne, that difference can pay for the degree in just a year's time.
At $650 a credit hour, a 36-credit hour program costs $23,400. By taking 12 credits at the undergraduate rate and receiving the Alumni Advantage Discount on the remaining classes, an LR alumni can earn a master's degree for only $12,480 through dual enrollment.
"The more efficient you can be, the better," Willingham said. "Bridges to Dreams is a huge gain for students."
Learn more at lr.edu/dual-enrollment.