A recent partnership between Jones College and William Carey University will mean more options than ever for students to earn bachelor’s degrees, in a shorter amount of time and with less costs, officials said.
“Together, partnerships like this create more pathways to degrees for our students,” said Jones College President Dr. Jesse Smith. “The end goal is to have more health-care professionals in every community. There’s no better way to create more pathways than to use existing resources. We’re leveraging those resources to provide health care in every small town in Mississippi.”
The first of two Memorandum of Agreements between Jones College and WCU will expand the growing options for nursing students to earn bachelor’s degrees while also earning their associate degree at the same time. The dual-enroll nursing option includes WCU instructors teaching two bachelor of nursing courses on the Ellisville campus of Jones College, with students paying the Jones College tuition rate. Additionally, Jones students and faculty will have access to WCU advisers to ensure students are on the right career and degree path.
“This will take (nursing students at Jones College) toward their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, otherwise known as the BS to BSN degree. Jones students will get a head start in getting those degrees,” said Dr. Janet Williams, WCU Associate Vice President of Health Programs and Dean of the College of Health Sciences. “We will also offer (dual enrollment) with our HAE (Health Administration and Education) program. All of this helps students get a head start in earning their degrees. We look for every advantage to help students do big things in the future.”
As nursing shortages reach critical stages in the state, providing more education pathways is part of the answer. Jones College has a similar partnership with the University of South Alabama’s nursing program. Providing more options with the addition of WCU’s nursing dual enrollment option can only help resolve the crisis, school officials said.
“If you want to stop the nursing shortage, you have to increase supply to stop demand,” Williams said. “Everything we can do to increase the supply, including the number of nursing faculty. If you increase the number of faculty, you can increase the number of nursing students.”
Nursing schools turn away almost as many qualified applicants as colleges can admit because they don’t have the faculty and resources to be able to handle the number of students interested in nursing, Williams added. JC Assistant Dean of Health Sciences Teresa McDonald said she is excited about the possibilities with the partnership.
“When COVID hit, it was like throwing gas on the fire as far as the nursing shortage. It caused tremendous complications,” McDonald said. “WCU’s new degree options are great for students because these graduate programs lead to improved salary and administration opportunities.”
Another caveat to the partnership agreement between the two institutions of higher learning is the expansion of pre-professional programs. WCU has been working on ways to create a 3+3 program by expanding Jones College’s pre-professional health programs to place JC students on the path to grad school at WCU, Williams said.
WCU’s goal is to offer every community college in Mississippi fast-track opportunities into the health care-related professional programs.
WCU Executive Vice President Ben Burnett said the second MOU with JC gives Career and Technical Education graduates more options. By accepting CTE credits, CTE graduates now have a pathway at WCU to quickly earn a BA, BS, and the newly created Bachelor of General Studies.
“WCU is providing two different pathways for the career-tech grads who ordinarily think once they earn their CTE degree, they go right into the workforce,” Burnett said “Now, there are a couple of degree options where they can continue their education, in any major and use CTE hours. Flexibility — that’s how higher education is changing, and Jones College is the first institution we’ve partnered with to offer these new opportunities.”
WCU is the first private university Jones College has partnered with that will now accept CTE credits toward earning bachelor’s degrees. All eight public universities currently have this articulation agreement with all 15 community colleges in Mississippi. Jones students who are enrolled in associate of applied science degree programs, such as computer programming and electromechanical engineering technology, are among the students who can take advantage of these new options and combine the AAS degree credits to earn a bachelor’s degree at WCU in math or science for example, Smith added.
Burnett isn’t shy about recruiting community college students, but he doesn’t want to “steal” students from Jones College. WCU heavily depends on this group of students, he said.
“We don’t exist without community college transfer students,” Burnett said. “Forty percent of WCU students are community college transfers. We want to partner with you in any and in every way mutually beneficial to make Mississippi stronger. We know (Jones College) is doing that, and WCU wants to partner with you.”