BY ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — Todd McGuire faced limited options.
McGuire, a Boyne City Police officer who lives in Bellaire, obtained an associate's degree with an emphasis in law enforcement from Northwestern Michigan College in 2002. He's always wanted to obtain a master's degree to advance his career, but can't do so without first securing a bachelor's degree.
McGuire is thrilled about a new collaboration between NMC and Ferris State University that will allow him to obtain such a degree in Traverse City. Without it, he'd likely be out of luck.
"There would be no chance of it at all," he said. "Being a divorced father and working full time, this is it for me right here ... this is a great opportunity."
The two schools recently announced the program as part of Ferris' statewide education. A student will be able to take three years of classes at NMC, plus another year of classes taught locally by Ferris professors to obtain a Ferris-issued bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
Ferris — perhaps best known for its criminal justice program — already offers the "three-plus-one" model at other community colleges throughout the state. It's a perfect situation for students who can't afford to go away for college, officials said.
"The benefit to the students is that they're receiving high quality instruction locally," said Maria A. Putt, a former police officer who now runs Ferris' off-campus criminal justice programs. "With the economy being like it is, students in many families cannot live on a main campus setting ... people can't afford that, and we're a very efficient, economical program."
Getting a bachelor's degree from a reputable institution on mostly community college bucks has wide appeal to students young and old.
"The three years at the community college are at community college rates, and that's a big deal," said Debbra Curtiss, Ferris' northern region director. "It's just one year at university rates."
And a criminal justice degree isn't just for those who want to be police or corrections officers, Putt said. Child protective services agents and other social workers often have criminal justice degrees, as do probation officers and investigators for various state and federal agencies.
"The sky's the limit," Putt said.
Suttons Bay High School graduate Kelli Ruthkowski, 21, plans to take advantage of the Ferris-NMC collaboration. She wasn't overly excited about going away to school and is glad to know she can obtain a bachelor's degree close to home.
"I think it's awesome," said Ruthkowski, who wants to be a police officer. "All of my friends went away to big colleges, and that's not really my thing. I like it small, and I'm living at home saving money."
For more information about the program, call Putt at (517) 388-6152.