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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
ASAP student Brian Motley makes his way to class at Ivy Tech Northeast.

Ivy Tech’s ASAP students on fast track to degree, workforce

– Brian Motley still isn’t quite used to the morning.

A self-described night owl, the 18-year-old was home-schooled for years in Spencerville.

He never had to deal with the rigors of an early-morning commute to a classroom in an entirely different building from his parents’ house.

Now, he’s climbing into his hand-me-down 2001 Chevy Malibu almost every weekday morning and making the trek to Ivy Tech Community College Northeast off North Anthony Boulevard.

He spends most of the day either in class or studying outside class, then tacks on several more hours of study at home every night.

“Basically, my life is consumed by homework,” he says.

But Motley is banking on all that work paying off – and more quickly than for the typical student.

Motley is part of an experimental program designed to get high school students who normally wouldn’t be able to afford college into school.

Launched as a pilot program three years ago, the Associate Accelerated Program, or ASAP, aims at getting students to look at college as a job.

Paid for with grants, stipends and financial aid, the program is now at the school’s Fort Wayne campus as well as at three other Ivy Tech campuses in the state.

The program is designed to help students earn an associate degree in one year instead of the traditional two-year track and get them into the workforce quickly.

“We try to recruit students through our local high schools,” said Cathy Maxwell, vice chancellor of academic affairs at Ivy Tech Northeast.

“It’s a good program for kids who are good students but not necessarily great students,” she said.

The program was jump-started by the Lumina Foundation, a private group based in Indianapolis focused on education that provided $2.3 million for it three years ago.

The foundation had been looking at the possibility of accelerated programs at other schools throughout the country, many of which have been aimed at adult students.

Ivy Tech was one that targeted “at-risk” high school students, according to Holly Zanville, the strategy director at Lumina.

“We thought it was very ambitious,” Zanville said.

“We didn’t know if it was doable, but we wanted to support Ivy Tech,” she said.

In classes, students are thrown a lot of information in a short time, according to Motley.

There’s little time for much outside the program, Motley said.

In fact, Ivy Tech officials at the northeast campus said students are advised against working Monday through Thursday, which is when they have classes.

If they do work, officials suggest they do so on the weekend and for no more than 12 hours a week.

“We really want them to understand what they’re getting into and make the commitment that, basically, going to school is their job for the year, because that’s kind of the whole point,” said Candy Schladenhauffen, assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs at the northeast campus.

So instead of a multiyear grind, the program can feel like a full-on sprint to the end of that one year – with a load of heavy books resting on both shoulders.

“It is a lot of work,” Motley said.

“If you’re not a very fast-paced person, it’s not the program for you. It can be pretty stressful.”

The program is set up in a group-oriented environment, which helps students bond and motivate each other.

Motley and his classmates typically study with each other during their lunch hours or between classes.

“We’re all pretty much just graduated or a few years out of high school,” he said.

“We all have similar experiences.”

There are benefits galore from the time students put in, though.

Many students get into the program on scholarships and grants. They also receive a stipend so they are less enticed to take jobs that would take their focus off of their coursework.

The results have been encouraging.

Eighty-six percent of ASAP students earn a degree or are still enrolled after 12 months, a rate five times better than the average for all Ivy Tech students, according to the school.

Seventy percent of ASAP students plan to earn a workforce credential and start a career in their chosen profession while pursuing additional post-secondary education, according to the school’s website.

The results are so encouraging, in fact, that Lumina has kicked in another grant to expand the program to all 14 Ivy Tech campuses.

“We’re hoping Ivy Tech can carry this off,” Zanville said.

“Others throughout the country are interested.”

Still, among the program’s challenges is finding ways for students to pay their way through the year, Maxwell said.

According to Ivy Tech’s website, annual tuition for an ASAP student is $6,668 a year.

Ivy Tech administrators help students secure Pell grants, according to Maxwell.

But in many cases, they are eligible to receive only one year’s worth of Pell grants, even though they are stuffing two years’ worth of classes into those 12 months.

“Really, our biggest challenge is that since (students) don’t have the means to go to school on their own, we have to come up with ways to pay for college and come up with gap funding,” Maxwell said.

And even though it’s designed to get students into the workforce, the program is also giving them an avenue to continue attending school.

That’s what Motley plans to do.

He’s looking at transferring to a four-year school when he’s finished at Ivy Tech and is eyeing a degree in political science.

That’s always been his goal – to get a two-year degree, then go to a four-year university.

It wasn’t until he learned about ASAP on Ivy Tech’s website that his brain began to click, that he began thinking he could reach his goal faster than he thought.

“I decided rather than take my time and do it in two years, I’d put myself up to the challenge and get it done in a year,” Motley said.

His life may be consumed by homework and books, but he’s already halfway there – in half the time it takes most students.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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