Waco-Tribune Herald: Students, administrators excited to get Baylor@MCC program under way

Aug. 16, 2012

Article reprinted with the permission of The Waco Tribune-Herald.

By REGINA DENNIS

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nicki Noruk had made up her mind -- it was Baylor University or bust.

Baylor was the only college the McKinney Christian Academy graduate applied to after falling for the school's charm and class offerings. But after the deadline for students to receive acceptance letters came and went, Noruk learned that she couldn't get in because Baylor was close to filling its freshman class slots.

Instead, the university offered her a chance to join a pilot program between Baylor and McLennan Community College.

Incoming freshman Giselle Ixchu, of Fort Worth, is one of the first class of a new program called "Baylor@MCC," which allows Baylor students to begin college at MCC before finishing at Baylor.

Noruk still would get to live in Baylor dorms and have access to campus amenities, but she would take most of her classes at MCC for the first year or two before transferring fully to Baylor.

Noruk is now one of 43 students registered for the Baylor@MCC co-enrollment program, a three-year initiative that starts this month when fall classes begin.

The initiative allows the university to retain impressive applicants who might otherwise enroll at competing colleges because of space limits.

"I went over (the offer) with my parents, and I realized that it wasn't me, it was that there were so many kids wanting to get in," said Noruk, 18. "I said, 'OK, I'm totally going in, because I'm going to get into Baylor one way or another.'

"To me, I just see it as I'm a Baylor student with some classes at MCC."

The students had orientation Wednesday at Baylor and will tour MCC today. On Friday, MCC is hosting a special dinner featuring its president, Johnette McKown, and Baylor President Ken Starr.

Once the semester starts, the students will take three to six credit hours at Baylor, along with the required chapel meetings and freshman transition course, but take nine to 12 hours at MCC. That allows students to pay MCC tuition rates for the bulk of their courseload, pocketing some savings.

The program also is set up so students will take their MCC classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then attend Baylor for the remaining weekdays.

"It's very exciting to see it coming together," said Diana Ramey, Baylor's associate vice president of enrollment management. "For years, from time to time we'd say we wanted to see if we could do something to partner with MCC in some venue in an enrollment area . . . so we're very excited to see it actually happening."

Donnie Balmos, MCC's vice president of instruction, said a significant number of the students transfer to Baylor after finishing their basic courses. Some Baylor students also have taken summer courses at MCC or enrolled in classes in both schools at the same time.

Baylor received around 27,200 completed freshman applications for the 2012-13 school year, but Ramey said the maximum class capacity is around 3,200.

There were 471 students wait-listed for the upcoming school year, Ramey said.

Ramey said about 200 students were considered for the new program, but the final class size will be just under 50 once registrations are completed.

"It's kind of like we can grow our own future class," Ramey said. "They're good students, and we want to hold onto them and get them here as soon as we have space for them. Plus, MCC has a great program, and it was just a really good fit."

MCC benefit

One benefit for MCC is the potential for serving more students from outside McLennan County, something Balmos said would add enhance the diverse perspectives in classroom lessons. It also spreads the school's brand to other regions.

Most of the students in the program are from Texas, with a higher concentration of McLennan County residents, Ramey said. There are some out-of-state students, as well, with one coming from as far as California.

"In my opinion, part of going to college is to enter a little bit different world and to get a more diverse experience than what one would have in high school," Balmos said. "We're going to bring a more diverse group to the campus, students that may have a little bit different goals from our students, and that raises the bar on the competition and the learning environment."

Noruk, who plans to major in elementary education, said she initially was hesitant about entering the program because she wanted the full experience of taking all Baylor classes. But she said she anticipates that MCC will offer the smaller class sizes she wanted out of Baylor.

"Maybe this is what I needed and not such a big leap into it, and maybe it will help me slowly ease into the whole college thing easier," Noruk said, noting that her senior class had only 27 students.

All of the program participants will live in Baylor's Kokernot Hall dormitory, and Baylor also has made arrangements for a Waco Transit bus to shuttle students without cars to MCC.

There have been a few hiccups in getting the program off the ground. The schools didn't coordinate their fall class schedules, so MCC classes will start a week later, but it's not a problem the students are likely to complain about, Balmos said.

But holidays and finals testing dates happened to align naturally, and the spring semester class dates and break match up.

Ramey, who taught business courses at MCC earlier in her career, joked that administrators on both campuses now know each other on a first-name basis from all the planning and correspondence.

"There's a lot still to be done in finishing the little bits and pieces for the students and making everything right for them," Ramey said. "We're wanting to have a really good start and then see what we can do to make it even better in the future and continue to develop the close ties we have. And to have these students succeed."