Monday, November 13, 2006
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
Peace Corps volunteers who have two-year college degrees will be able to earn a bachelor's degree while they're overseas under a pioneering distance-education agreement with Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.
The partnership, announced Oct. 23 in St. Paul, is the first ever between the Peace Corps and a college that offers four-year undergraduate degree completion.
"It's a relationship made in heaven," said Daniel Abebe, dean of Metro State's First College, which will house the new program.
Abebe grew up in Ethiopia. In the 1960s, many of his high school teachers in the town of Debere Markos were Peace Corps volunteers. "I absolutely fell in love with this idea," he said.
More than 80 percent of the Peace Corps' roughly 7,800 volunteers already have a bachelor's degree, and the corps already has agreements with many colleges that allow those students to work on master's degrees while they're overseas, Abebe said. According to the Corps' Web site, the organization wants to recruit more community college graduates, partly because those schools are more racially diverse than four-year colleges. The opportunity to work on a four-year degree during their Peace Corps service and get credit for some of their volunteer activities could be an additional lure for those volunteers.
The degree program, which will begin as a pilot involving perhaps 10 students, allows volunteers to devise an individualized program. If they can demonstrate academic value, they will be able to earn credit for activities such as the language classes they take at the start of their assignment. Other Corps work, such as developing training manuals for communities in areas like agriculture, the environment or business, may qualify for credit if volunteers can demonstrate their academic use, Abebe said.
Students also will take classes by computer. Abebe said most Corps volunteers have Internet access. Where computers aren't available, mail will be used for correspondence courses. Students will be required to end their degree work with a senior seminar course either in person on campus or online.
Students will pay regular tuition. Because Peace Corps volunteers don't make much money, federal and state grants may pay for much of their education, Abebe said.
(c) 2006, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
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