Since the start of collegiate academia, we’ve come to know the university system as a brick-and-mortar environment created typically for 18- to 24-year-olds to go to school full time and possibly work part time, if working at all.
While this system still operates effectively throughout the world, the creators of IDEA-U — an online, flexible, and affordable college system — have recognized the need for a conglomeration to the order. Now they have launched and opened the doors of the IDEA-U post-secondary program, catered to the modern day student. The program is focused on providing what is needed for students of an array of different lifestyles who wish to pursue a college degree the online route. The concept behind IDEA-U is to allow students to study at their own pace while maintaining a healthy work, life, student, and family balance in addition to providing some individual and group environment guidance. Although IDEA students have a very high acceptance rate into college and universities around the country — 99.6 percent, in fact — there are still a few students who stray from the path.
Students commit to Southern New Hampshire University, which provides the curriculum, and IDEA-U offers the counseling, advising, and gives students the additional support at a physical location, located in Weslaco at 505 Angelita Drive, Suites 8-10.
Students enrolled in the program have mandatory weekly meetings with their college completion advisers to ensure they are remaining focused on their studies as well as to address any concerns they might be having along the way of their degree plan. In addition to their weekly one-hour meetings with advisers, students must also commit to spending 12 hours a week of residency working on their assignments at the designated center located in Weslaco. This adds up to a total commitment of 13 hours a week, all of which is to provide the accountability frequently needed by so many people who choose to earn an online degree.
“We want to give access to low income and first generation students in the Valley and provide a different way to access college,” said Phillip Garza, chief College & Diversity officer at IDEA Public Schools. “We want to provide students with a place to work where they’re supported academically, mentally, and in other senses,”
Relationships with fellow peers flourish, mentorship is provided, students have access to a fully functional state-of-the-art educational facility, and the silver lining is a modest tuition of only $5,500 a year. However, if students are eligible for the federal Pell Grant, they pay no money out of pocket for this program. The program is partnered with the fully accredited nonprofit institution College for America, as well as Southern New Hampshire University. College for America offers online, individualized curricula that lead to an associate or bachelor’s degree. Along the way, most students also complete an associate degree in eight to 14 months.
Included in the tuition is the impressive facility where students are able to go study or work. The facility has plenty of workspace, meeting spaces, desks, computers, laptops, internet access, printers, and fresh coffee daily. Students clock in and out each time they attend to make tracking their hours easier.
IDEA-U leads the way in an innovative approach to the digital classroom era. It allows for students to complete college on their terms while simultaneously gaining the college experience of physically meeting with other students and advisers. The launch of the program in August 2017 began with 57 students enrolled. Now, officials at IDEA-U look to expand and end the year with about 100 students from across the RGV. Though the program was originally only offered to students who earned their high school diploma from an IDEA school, it is now expanding to any high school student across the Valley who is interested.
Entry requirements include submitting an application, submitting the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), completing an essay, proceeding with an interview process, and communicating a drive and motivation to complete a four-year college degree.
Accountability is a big part of the program, but helping build skills needed to thrive in the real working environment is also a huge element to the program. You can think of it as the “WeWork” of college — individualized programs democratized into a community learning environment.
Learn more about the program by visiting www.idea-u.org.