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March 28, 2014
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Thomas More College making textbooks part of inclusive fee plan, launching marine biology program

Also adding experiential education requirement

CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. (March 28, 2014) – Thomas More College will soon provide textbooks to students at no out of pocket expense, is launching the state’s first marine biology program and believes it will be the first in Kentucky to adopt an experiential education requirement that all students must complete multiple work internships to earn a four-year degree.

“The inclusion of textbooks into tuition and fees is cutting edge and will allow the college to maintain lower annual costs, which will have a long-term cumulative impact that will be significant for students,” said Matthew H. Webster, vice-president for operations and community affairs. “In addition, this model enhances student services, provides flexibility and provides on-campus employment opportunities through work-study, co-op and internship positions. This initiative is exciting and unique.”

The new initiatives will enhance the student experience at Thomas More College, said President Armstrong, who announced the plans at a Covington Business Council meeting. Additionally, the Kenton County schools will launch a new athletic training major, marching band and women’s lacrosse in fall 2014.

No out-of-pocket textbook costs

Long on the forefront of providing affordable access to a quality education, Thomas More College evaluated barriers to this goal and developed its new all-inclusive textbook initiative. Named the SAINTS Experience, a revised structure will roll services such as parking, laundry, technology, student activities, printing and course materials into one all-inclusive fee that will create a unique campus program.

It will prevent duplication and multiple fee increases while providing all assigned course materials at a discounted cost for students, putting them up front for families. The inclusive fee will be approximately $1,300 annually for all services with the textbook program operating as a rental model.

Armstrong said Thomas More College wanted to create a system allowing for long-term price control of instructional materials to protect students and ensure future affordability. A February 2014 report by the Government Accountability Office found that textbook prices have increased 82 percent the past decade and continue to rise 6 percent per year, which is about three times the rate of inflation. The College Board estimates students spend about $1,200 on books and supplies annually.

All assigned course materials will be provided as part of the SAINTS Experience, including textbooks, workbooks, study guides and digital access codes. The purchasing power created by this initiative reduces costs, and Armstrong said the administration anticipates savings will multiply in the future.

The college wants to ensure all students have materials for every class. While sometimes a personal choice, far too often materials shortfalls are a result of lack of funds, which creates enormous pressure on students in the classroom.

A recent study Thomas More considered in adopting its all-inclusive fee strategy found 65 percent of students have skipped purchasing course materials due to the cost. Further, 94 percent are concerned that not buying course materials will hurt their grades, 24 percent wait until classes begin to purchase course materials, making them unprepared at the beginning of their course, and 36 percent of students choose to forgo buying at least one course item.

“As president, it is imperative to me that all students have educational resources to ensure academic success and to ensure that those materials are cost effective and convenient,” Armstrong said. “This program allows the college to manage costs and to pass along savings that will multiply in effect as time passes while maintaining flexibility for students.” 

New Marine Biology program

Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, biology majors can choose to take the Marine Biology Track to prepare for graduate work or a career in the field of Marine Biology. Thomas More College will be the only Kentucky institution offering such a program. Chris Lorentz, professor of biology and Director of the Environmental Science Program and Biology Field Station on the banks of the Ohio River, is working on various partnerships in conjunction with this program.

“This is an incredibly exciting initiative for Thomas More College, and we are thrilled about our potential partnerships,” Lorentz said. “In addition to teaching on campus and at the Biology Field Station, and we are exploring other locations. A growing interest in this new program is emerging.”

Because of the school’s membership in the Organization of Biological Field Stations and National Association of Marine Laboratories, students will have access to marine labs across the country.

New experiential learning requirement  

Thomas More is working on a new requirement for all students to learn experientially and participate in internships/co-ops. This experience enhances learning by applying academic coursework to real life experiences, when possible in the student’s field of study. Providing students with opportunities for experiential learning that connects classroom learning to the real world is fundamental for a comprehensive liberal arts learning experience, Armstrong said. Prior to this requirement, co-ops and internships were encouraged but not required.

Students will have an option to participate in an experiential learning experience through: co-op; internship; service learning; clinical practicum; student teaching; apprenticeship program; independent research; and study abroad. Other professional field experience could be approved by a faculty member in their department of study.

The experiential requirement can be completed anytime during a student’s undergraduate experience.  Students will be able to find an opportunity on their own, through the advising of a faculty member or with the assistance of the career planning coordinator.

Local businesses interested in getting involved with this initiative can contact Julie Mueller in the Career Planning Center at (859) 344-3386.

“In addition to the student benefit, we are eager to see how this strengthens our relationships in the community,” said Brad Bielski, vice president of academic affairs.

Thomas More College is a values-based liberal arts institution that is one 10 diocesan colleges in the nation. Founded in 1921 by the Benedictine Sisters as Villa Madonna College in downtown Covington, Thomas More aims to provide students a distinctive and transformative experience. It has been named one of the best values in higher education by Money magazine’s Best College Buys issue and recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching as a “selective liberal arts college.”

For more information about these new announcements, visit thomasmore.edu.

 

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