Member Login

Ed Hughes: The Value Engineered Bachelor's Degree

Value engineering is a big issue in the market place today. It generally means that experts find ways to re-engineer processes and products to build something better, faster, cheaper and still with high quality. Value engineering provides alternatives for consumers to meet their needs. Findings from a recent study by the non-partisan Pew Research Center on the rising cost of not going to college suggests that prospective students and their families should take a value engineering approach to attending college. 
The study found that “on virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment... young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education.” According to the study, college graduates between the ages of 25 and 32 employed full-time earn about $17,500 more a year than their counterparts with a high school diploma. Stated another way, millennial-age students who only finished high school earn just 62 percent of what a college graduate earns. The earnings gap between these two populations is wider now than at any time in the past 50 years despite the impact of the “Great Recession.”
Much has been written about the rising cost of college tuition and associated heavy debt loads many students accrue. And there are many examples showing the traditional route to a bachelor’s degree can be costly, especially in certain fields of study. But as Paul Taylor, Pew executive vice president and study co-author, concludes, “In today’s knowledge-based economy, the only thing more expensive than getting a college education is not getting one.” The study is available for anyone to read at

 photo IMG_1977_zps02d813bd.jpg

Community colleges offer an effective, value-engineered approach to the cost vs. value conundrum facing today’s bachelor’s degree hopefuls. Tuition is affordable, often half that of public universities and as much as 10 times less than the rate charged by highly select private universities. The quality of instruction at regionally accredited community colleges at the freshman and sophomore levels has been demonstrated as equal to courses taught at senior colleges. 
There is a reason that most universities actively seek two-year college graduates; they know the graduates have been well prepared and have demonstrated academic success. Locally, this means students can begin their pathway to a bachelor’s degree by earning an associate degree at Gateway Community and Technical College. They can then transfer those credits to a senior college or university while saving thousands of dollars in tuition and related fees.
That’s value engineering at its best.
There remains confusion about the transfer of college credits from community college to universities. By law, Gateway credits transfer to any public university in Kentucky as either program and graduation requirements or electives. 
Because Gateway has undergone a rigorous evaluation by our peers called regional accreditation, our courses transfer to virtually any university in the nation. Our advisors help transfer students map their courses to specific universities to further ease transfer. Gateway and our partner institutions have value-engineered a new path to a bachelor’s degree. For example, last fall, Gateway and Northern Kentucky University created an innovative dual admission program known as Gateway2NKU
It enables a seamless transition from an associate degree at Gateway to a bachelor’s degree at NKU. Participating students are enrolled simultaneously at NKU and Gateway, providing access to all student activities and services at both institutions. The program offers 25 distinct degree pathways, and more are being created. In addition, Gateway2NKU students can take up to four NKU courses at Gateway tuition rates while attending Gateway. This enables students to enter NKU as juniors with program courses completed. That means they obtain their bachelor’s degrees faster and get into the work place quicker. More than 100 students are participating so far, and each will save money and graduate faster, have less debt and receive the best quality from two institutions. 
Thomas More College and Gateway teamed to create the Four is MORE initiative that also offers superior value to Gateway students seeking the bachelor’s degree. This program guarantees admission to TMC to GCTC associate degree graduates and provides scholarships of up to $14,000 a year, depending on the graduate’s GPA. Tuition savings achieved by attending Gateway for two years coupled with the Thomas More scholarship awards make a bachelor’s degree from a private, denominational college attainable for many. 
Gateway currently has agreements in place that lead to more than 100 bachelor’s degrees at 20 different colleges and universities. The college adds to this list all the time and most recently announced a transfer pathway with the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. Twenty-three public and private universities, including the College of Mount St. Joseph, the University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University, offer transfer scholarships to Gateway students. Awards range from $2,000 to $21,000 a year depending on the institution. Students who earn associate in applied science degrees have options to go on to four-year degrees, thanks to specially designed bachelor’s completer programs at NKU, UC-Clermontand Morehead State University. 
Using the transfer pathway at community colleges like Gateway and finishing at a four-year university brings value engineering to higher education and dramatically increases the return on investment of a bachelor’s degree. It is a cost effective solution that all bachelor-degree hopefuls should explore.
G. Edward Hughes is the president & CEO of Gateway Community & Technical College