‘Concordia Promise’ offers low-cost courses, possible free tuition

By Paula Schlueter Ross (paula.ross@lcms.org)

Acknowledging that “40 million Americans have student-loan debt, and the average 2014 college graduate left campus with $33,000 in debt” — a “reality” that “makes college a difficult and sometimes even impossible choice for too many students” — the Rev. Dr. Patrick Ferry, president of Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, and Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich., says the two campuses believe they are “called to meet this challenge head-on.”

mequon-free-INAnd to prove they’re serious, Ferry adds in an online video message, they’re offering high-school students in Christian and home schools up to a year of low-cost — or even cost-free — tuition.

“The Concordia Promise,” an “unprecedented initiative” launched in January, Ferry says, is one way “to ensure that lifelong Lutheran, Christian education becomes possible for more students — not fewer.”

With a cap of 500 participating students this semester, the initiative has 17 Lutheran high schools and one nondenominational Christian high school, as well as some home-school students, involved.

Here’s how it works:

  • High-school students (mostly juniors and seniors) pay $50 per credit hour for “dual-credit” courses offered by Concordia, Mequon, and Concordia, Ann Arbor, through “The Concordia Promise” program. Most of the courses are taken online, although a few may be offered on the high-school campuses in cooperation with Concordia University faculty.
  • “Concordia Promise” students may earn as many as 30 college credits while in high school.
  • “Concordia Promise” students who enroll at either of the two Concordia University campuses (in Mequon or Ann Arbor) after high-school graduation receive a grant in the amount paid for those dual-credit courses that can be applied toward their undergraduate tuition.

So, participating students have the potential of graduating from high school with a year of college credit already completed — at a significant cost savings (regular dual-credit courses at the universities are $200 per credit hour).

And, those who choose to enroll at either Concordia campus in Mequon or Ann Arbor get reimbursed for those dual-credit courses they took in high school — up to a year of college credit, essentially free.

“High-school administrators are stunned when they learn of the financial benefits that the Concordia Promise scholarship offers to their students and families,” says Kathryn Baganz, dual-credit coordinator for Concordia University Wisconsin. Added benefits to the high schools include access to free consulting services and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) from the universities.

And while the “primary goal” of The Concordia Promise is to make Lutheran higher education more affordable to more students, the program also is expected to boost recruitment at the two Concordia University campuses, “bringing more students to Concordia for their higher-education experience,” adds Baganz.

Dave Burgess, executive director of Racine Lutheran High School in Racine, Wis., calls The Concordia Promise “a fabulous program — I think it took me about half a second to say, ‘Yep, we’re in!’ “

Burgess believes the initiative fits in well with the high school’s focus on preparing students for a lifetime of success because it “provides a remarkable advantage — academically and financially — for students to pursue their future goals while completing their high-school diploma.”

Three Racine Lutheran juniors and five seniors are currently enrolled in the program, and Burgess said he expects that number to climb in the years ahead.

Participating students (who must meet certain academic standards) “not only get the credits, but they get the experience of being in a college course — the expectations and the workload, all those things that go into it — before they even set foot in college” — a huge advantage, he noted.

That sentiment is shared by Gretchen Jameson, vice-president for strategy and external relations at Concordia University, who notes that the university’s “exceptional faculty” and their “ability to connect faith and learning” will benefit all Concordia Promise students — whether they enroll at Concordia Wisconsin or Ann Arbor after graduation or not.

“And that, I think, is a remarkable value.”

Ferry says the university is “committed to keeping students at the heart of our efforts” because they’re “more than just credit-hours sold — they deserve the highest-value higher education possible.

“And beyond that, we want to see more people in heaven. That means we’re compelled to help more students develop through lifelong access to Christ-centered education. That’s our promise.”

For more information about The Concordia Promise, visit http://concordiapromise.com/ or contact Kathryn Baganz at 262-243-2077 or kathryn.baganz@cuw.edu.

Posted Feb. 24, 2015

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