Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 8, 2013

NMC hopes to award 1st 4-year degree in January

TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College is set to become the state’s first community college to offer its own fully accredited bachelor’s degree.

The college officially learned this week that its request to offer a bachelor’s of science in maritime technology was approved by the Higher Learning Commission’s Institutional Actions Council.

NMC plans to award its first bachelor’s degree in January, said Jerry Achenbach, superintendent of NMC’s Great Lakes Maritime Academy.

“That’s because we have some cadets who have already completed coursework equivalent to what is required,” he said. “That is why the accreditation went so quickly. We’ve been effectively a four-year degree program for so many years. The maritime associate’s degree was already 116 credits, and the bachelor’s degree is 120 credits. It was not a huge leap.”

The academy prepares college students to become merchant marine officers and business professionals around the world. Classes range from seamanship, navigation and piloting to steam and diesel engineering. Class time includes 300 sailing days on NMC’s State of Michigan and/or a commercial boat, Achenbach said.

To get a merchant marine officer license, NMC cadets must also earn a bachelor’s degree at a cost of about $90,000.They now attend Ferris State University through the University Center to earn a bachelor’s degree in business, which will remain an option. About 25 percent of incoming cadets arrive with a bachelor’s degree already in hand, Achenbach said.

The biggest benefit of the accreditation is students will save about $10,000 in college costs and can graduate earlier. That’s because they’ll need a semester less worth of credits, Achenbach said.

Achenbach hopes the cost savings will translate into a higher graduation rate. Right now an average of 40 of the 60 incoming freshmen cadets graduate four years later, he said.

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