June 4, 2012
Contact: Jen Boyer, Media Relations
Lake Washington Institute of Technology
(425) 739-8236, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kirkland, Wash.: Think outside the box and receive a bachelor’s degree at less than half the cost of a traditional four-year program. This is the lesson innovative Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWIT) graduate Elaine Melnik (20) of Redmond, Wash., will prove this month when she graduates from Central Washington University (CWU).
Elaine Melnik at work, earning income while completing her bachelor’s degree. Photo courtesy of Elaine Melnik.
With the price of a traditional four-year education skyrocketing and more and more non-traditional students headed to college, Washington students need to think outside the box to reach their educational goals. Many are turning to LWIT and Washington’s other community and technical colleges, which offer multiple transfer degrees.
Melnik was a regular high school student with a passion for computers. She started her college education while still in high school by enrolling in LWIT’s Lake Washington Technical Academy, a public high school alternative that places high school juniors and seniors in college level courses at no cost to the student (books are even provided at no charge). She graduated from high school with both her high school diploma and a Computer Security and Network Technician Associate of Applied Science Degree from LWIT, finding work right away in a rough economy. She then transferred to CWU’s online Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Technology and Administrative Management (BAS-ITAM) program, which allowed her to keep her job and go to school the past two years.
“The benefits of getting my two-year degree while still in high school were amazing,” Melnik said. “By graduation I was closer to my ideal job than most high school graduates, but knew I needed more. The minimum in my field is a four-year degree. The online degree at CWU saved me time and money, allowing me to keep with my current job. Now I’ve gained the valuable skills and experience – leadership skills, management courses, and valuable IT classes – to take my career to the next level.”
College During High School
Melnik’s experience isn’t unique. Every year more than 100 high school students graduate from the Lake Washington Technical Academy, many with two-year degrees and plans to continue their education.
“The beauty of the Academy is that it creates another option for students who attend one of our 30 partner school districts,” says Kim Infinger, Principal at Lake Washington Technical Academy. “We have students from all walks of life, whether they weren’t interested in the traditional high school, or needed a more hands-on technical education to spark their desire to learn, or just saw the opportunity to get a jump start on college and save money. In some cases, our students are getting a college education they’d otherwise never be able to achieve be it due to finances, family situations, or lack of desire. I’ve seen the light bulb turn on for so many students. It is rewarding to watch them achieve when they didn’t themselves believe it possible.”
LWIT offers several transfer-ready degrees complete with transfer agreements with several Washington schools to assist graduates in a seamless continuation of their education. However, CWU takes it one step further accepting any two-year degree in its entirety as long as it includes 40 credits in an applied area.
“State stats showed in 2010 more than 191,000 students in Washington were enrolled in two-year applied programs that have no pathway to a four-year university,” says Laurie Stehle BAS-ITAM director at CWU. “CWU is the only university in the state that will accept any applied/technical degree program (up to 105 credits) toward our Bachelor of Applied Science degree. What’s more, we’ve also found students prefer the flexibility of online classes. They fill first, even by our students living here on campus. For non-traditional students with jobs, family, or limited resources, online courses are the viable option. By offering degrees online, CWU offers students around the state opportunities to achieve their educational goals.”
Melnik paid less than ¼ of what it would have cost to attend a four-year university for her entire education. By receiving her two-year degree while still in high school, which comes at no cost due to state law, she saved at least $12,000 in LWIT tuition and books. CWU estimates annual tuition, fees, and books at about $9,000 a year (add room and board and the estimated cost is $20,000 a year). In the end, Melnik received a four-year bachelor’s degree for less than $20,000, the cost of one year at the CWU main campus.
Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWIT) is a broad-based polytechnic college offering instruction in 36 areas of instruction toward a spectrum of more than 100 bachelor and associate level degrees and certificates designed to give students the latest cutting edge skills relevant to today’s workplace. Founded in 1949, LWIT offers hands-on, real-world training in manufacturing, transportation, energy, business, allied health, computer and information systems, food and hospitality, and health and fitness. For information and news about LWIT programs, please visit lwtech.edu/press_room.
NOTE TO REPORTERS: Melnik is one of many examples of LWIT graduates blazing new paths to a better future. Both LWIT and CWU are happy to help reporters identify local students for interviews and stories about how they overcame (or are currently overcoming) educational and financial odds to achieve their educational dreams and financial security to coincide with story deadlines around budget issues as well as graduation.
Laurie Stehle, BAS-ITAM Director, Central Washington University
(509) 963-2228, StehleL@cwu.edu