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UST Now Offers Associate Degrees

Undergraduate students walking on campus at University of St. Thomas in Houston, TexasThe University of St. Thomas Houston is poised to take new ground with the launch of a parallel college concept to enter the two-year college marketplace.

In fall 2019, UST will offer three associate degrees in network technology, electrical technology and cybersecurity in a total virtual online program to give students flexibility to accommodate their personal and work life.

These degree programs are pending Southern Accreditation of Colleges and Schools Committee on Colleges approval.

“The creation of the parallel college offers a bold new direction that allows the University to honor the long-standing Catholic Intellectual Tradition that we have offered since the University was founded in 1947,” UST President Dr. Richard Ludwick said.

Parallel College Idea Springs from Celt Innovation Contest

The idea of offering a parallel college sprung from the Celt Innovation Contest, an on-campus innovation contest where faculty and staff could apply for seed money to create innovative program/project start-ups or development that expands opportunities for the University to serve students/learners in and beyond the Greater Houston Metro area.

The innovative idea of a parallel college was the brainchild of Jim Piccininni, dean of libraries and professor. In his pitch to the Celt Innovation Committee, Piccininni declared that, “What we need is one good solution to change the landscape in a fundamental way. The parallel college will open new markets to us, bringing in students who previously would never have considered applying to St. Thomas,” Piccininni said. “In his proposal and presentation, Piccininni stated that, “A parallel college functions alongside our current university, yet functions in fundamentally different and independent ways from our current campus. The practical goal of parallel college is securing meaningful and immediate employment.”

New Degrees will Offer Internships and Job Placement Opportunities

UST will offer an associate degree in electrical technologyAcademic lead on this project is School of Education Associate Dean Nicole McZeal Walters.

“These degrees also have the opportunity for certifications in specialized areas with potential employers, some of whom will comprise a soon-to-be-named advisory board that have the opportunity to work with UST on various aspects of the program development including course customization, internships, job placements, and faculty teaching opportunities,” McZeal Walters said.

The new associate degree classes are $300 per credit hour. The degree program is 60 hours. A financial analysis of the potential impact for the program show that with even a much lower price point for the program, UST has the opportunity to generate a significant net income.

“With the programs being delivered entirely online, they do not place a burden on the University’s physical capacities,” McZeal Walters said. “The key selling point for these programs is to also generate a shorter period for degree completion at an affordable rate. The courses are designed to maximize effectiveness by mapping each leaning objective to specific course and program outcomes as set forth by the curriculum.”

UST Educates Workforce with Strong Ethics, Communication and Critical Thinking Skills

According to Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Road to the Future Plan, Houston has to make big investments in its workforce so that it ensures future growth. Turner states that 50 percent of jobs in Houston are mid-skill jobs. He proposes that making an investment in our people will uphold the highest values of our city – and better position Houston for future economic success.

“In that light, UST’s new associate degree programs will fill jobs with employees that Houston needs in its workforce,” Ludwick said. “The parallel college will open new markets to us, bringing in students who previously would never have considered applying to St. Thomas.”

“Essentially, the parallel college will offer associates degrees in fields of study that will result in technically trained graduates with the marketable skills needed to secure meaningful and immediate employment,” Ludwick said. “Houston is changing. A great number of first generation students, many of whom are Catholic, need a new level of options in today’s high technology, global world. It is UST’s mission to serve this population in Houston.

“To this end, we will serve as a partner with Houston to meet its future workforce goals by teaching future employees strong ethical, good communication and critical thinking skills,” Ludwick said.