LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 14, 2011) — A bachelor's degree today is the equivalent of a high school diploma 20 years ago, with an increasing number of careers requiring even higher degrees. Employees with a master's degree make an average 32 percent more than those with a bachelor's, according to a 2006 U.S. Census Bureau report.
For University of Kentucky students seeking a master's degree in less time and at a lower cost, University Scholars provides a little-known but useful tool.
Although the details of the program lay hidden on page 30 of the Graduate School Bulletin, University Scholars has been around for quite some time.
"It sounds too good to be true, but when you explain the process, you realize how simple it really is," said Pat Bond, Senior Assistant Dean of the Graduate School. "This is an opportunity to work at the next level and expedite it."
In most cases, a University Scholars student can complete a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree with less time and less credit hour than a double major at the undergraduate level, combining as many as 12 required hours for each degree.
"University Scholars encourages those students on the fence about graduate school," said UK graduate student Scott Pabian, who was able to share six hours for his civil engineering graduate degree and trimmed off a semester with the help of summer classes. "If you're interested, it's there."
University Scholars candidates must have an overall GPA of 3.2 or higher, an overall major GPA of 3.5 or higher and senior standing (90 or more earned hours) by the first semester of participation in the combined bachelor’s/master’s program.
Additional requirements include admission into to the Graduate School and completion of the University Scholars form to schedule how graduate level coursework will count for transcript and tuition purposes.
"This is for students that are motivated, high achievers, forward thinking and good planners," said Graduate Admission Officer Kathy Ice-Wedding. "Students that participate have to be mature with a goal in mind."
The following graduate programs currently offer University Scholars opportunities: Agricultural Economics, Anthropology, Biomedical Engineering, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Classics, Communication, Computer Science, Diplomacy and International Commerce, Electrical Engineering, Family Studies, Forestry, Geography, French, History, Manufacturing Systems Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Music, Nutrition and Food Science, Physics, Public Administration, Rehabilitation Counseling, Sociology, Spanish and Statistics.
UK departments interested in participating in the University Scholars program can submit their plans to The Graduate School for review and approval by the Graduate Council.
Statistics professor and chair Arne Bathke is excited at the possibilities that the University Scholars program offers his students.
"It will take a while to assess the benefits of this program for our department, but we have success stories here on campus like Jason Pieratt, who completed the program a few years back."
Pieratt, director of enrollment management for the College of Arts and Sciences, is a part of the push for greater awareness of the University Scholars program. "Increasing the education level of our communities is one of our charges as a flagship land grant university," he said." This is a great opportunity for good students."
While time-saving alone is worth participation in the University Scholars program, the Graduate School has changed its tuition rates for participants as well. "Students are not charged graduate tuition until they've met minimum hours to graduate from their undergraduate degrees," explained Bond. "Students can also keep financial aid and then apply as graduate student for more financial aid throughout the process."
"The cost is less; you get more for your money," added Anna Edwards, multicultural affairs director for Graduate School Diversity Engagement. "It's an incredible and helpful tool. You get two for the price of one."
Furthermore, there's something to be said about the continuity of education. "You continue your studies without a break, and you're already on campus," said Bond. "Students work with the same professors and the same mentors, if they choose."
According to College of Arts and Sciences academic adviser Erica Caton, students often want to stack degrees, earning bachelor's degrees in multiple majors and minors when an advanced degree may serve them better in terms of marketability, increased knowledge and experience in a particular field. "We also believe an advanced degree will open the pool of possibilities beyond just simply being employed after undergrad," she said.
"It's more and more common to see master's degrees in civil engineering," said Pabian, who first heard about the University Scholars program from his older brother. "Graduate school is totally different, more theoretical and out-of-the-box. I've gotten to go further, and the paperwork was the easiest part."
For more information on the University Scholars program, contact your academic adviser.