Hoping to provide students with affordable path to college education, Shawnee Mission signs on to Degree in 3 program

Students in the Shawnee Mission School District’s biotechnology lab at the Center for Academic Achievement.

College is getting more and more expensive these days — but a degree is also increasingly important for students who want to enter many of the fastest growing career fields.

As part of a push to make a college degree more accessible — and affordable — for local students, the Shawnee Mission School District this week signed on as one of the participants in the University of Kansas Edwards Campus’s Degree in 3 program.

Through Degree in 3, students have the option of earning college credit for classes they take at the high school level. With those credits as a foundation, they can finish an associate’s degree at a local community college, including Johnson County Community College, a year after they graduate high school. They can then complete a bachelor’s degree at KU Edward’s Campus in four additional semesters, meaning they can receive a full college degree in just three years of post high-school study.

Interim Shawnee Mission Superintendent Kenny Southwick, left, was among the local education leaders to participate in the Degree in 3 signing ceremony June 12. Photo credit KU Edwards Campus.

Christy Ziegler, Shawnee Mission’s Assistant Superintendent for Innovation and Performance, said the Degree in 3 program was a perfect fit for the district as it seeks to set students up for success beyond high school.

“This is about supporting students, that if they’ve identified college as they path they want to take, we can start them on a track that has support early on,” she said. “And we know that finances are tight for many families, so if we can provide a route that reduces the financial burden with no debt or low debt, that just makes college more accessible.”

Shawnee Mission is one of six metro-area public school districts that have partnered with KU Edwards Campus on the program. Blue Valley, Olathe, Raytown, Lee’s Summit R-7 and Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools are participating as well. Leaders from those organizations, as well as participating community colleges and KU Edwards Campus had a signing ceremony marking the launch of the program this week.

Shawnee Mission’s initial participation in the program will provide pathways for students interested in pursuing degrees in biotechnology, pre-law, and public administration — fields of study where the district has well-established advanced training options through its Signature Programs. (Students in Blue Valley and Olathe will have the option of starting Degree in 3 paths in a few additional fields, including information technology and business administration). Ziegler said high school counselors will be able to help students identify the courses they could take to start a Degree in 3 path starting this fall.

“If students are strategic about which courses they take and when, they can set themselves up to earn these college credits while still in high school,” she said.

You can learn more about the new Degree in 3 program on the KU Edwards Campus website here.