ROCK SPRINGS - Western Wyoming Community College recently awarded its first group of 16 to Succeed graduates with their $1,000 incentive awards for completing their degrees in two years or less. The program, which launched in Fall 2013, is designed to promote timely degree completion by reminding students to take full course loads each semester in order to graduate on time.
On average, 16 credits per semester will allow students to complete their associate degrees in two years, and the availability of summer classes gives them some flexibility in the number of credits they take per semester. But 16 is the target number. To qualify for the program, students must sign a contract of sorts in their first semester acknowledging their expected graduation date and promising to complete their degrees within that time.
“We congratulate our students who have successfully met their 16 to Succeed commitment by completing their degrees in two years or less,” said Mark Rembacz, WWCC Director of Student Engagement and Completion. “The goal of this program is to incentivize academic success and timely graduation, and we are excited to present our first group of students with their $1,000 award checks.”
For students who attend Western after having earned college credit through dual or concurrent classes taken in high school, the time to degree completion may be even shorter.
Miranda Twomey, 20, of Green River, one of this spring's nine 16 to Succeed recipients, will graduate this May with an Associate of Science degree in health sciences with a pre-med emphasis. She began at Western with 20 college credits that she had earned in high school.
“It will give you a step up when you go to college,” Twomey said of the dual and concurrent classes. As for the 16 to Succeed program, she agreed that it provides students with added motivation.
“It pushes you to get your credits and graduate on time,” she said. “It encourages you to take more classes and also to pass them.”
Twomey has applied for admission into Western’s nursing program and said she expects to invest some of her $1,000 award into purchasing her uniform, books and supplies for those classes.
For Cameron Allgier, 20, of Lyman, who is graduating with an A.A. degree with an emphasis in secondary education, 16 to Succeed provided added incentive to achieve a goal that he had every intention of accomplishing, anyway.
“I honestly thought it was a really easy way to make $1,000,” he said. “It wasn’t my main motivation, but it was down in the back of my mind that if I do good and keep the work up, that I will get $1,000.”
Allgier plans to transfer to the University of Wyoming in the fall to continue preparing to become a high school English teacher.
“I’m probably going to save (the $1,000) to use at the university,” he said. “I would love to go out and spend it, but I’ve got to be responsible.”
Preston Ackerman, 20, of Rock Springs, completed his A.S. degree with an emphasis in business administration and is already studying at UW. When his WWCC advisor told him about 16 to Succeed, the business-minded student immediately saw the value in Western’s investment.
“I was happy to hear that they had this extra money to use to encourage students to do well,” he said. “But I was already planning to graduate and do well.”
Like any smart business person, Ackerman said he will likely save his $1,000 for future college expenses, unless he discovers an opportunity to make it grow.
“I might invest it. Stocks and bonds, an IRA. I’m not sure yet,” he said. “I don’t want to blow it, though.”
Andrea Sanchez Walk, 20, of Rock Springs, is graduating with an A.S. degree in health sciences with a pre-med emphasis. She will continue her pre-med and medical research studies at UW.
Walk said the 16 to Succeed program is another example of the wonderful opportunities that students are afforded at Western. Graduating in two years’ time can be challenging, she said, especially for students who have jobs and many other life responsibilities. But the long-term rewards are worth it, as 16 to Succeed demonstrates.
“It is very achievable. It just depends on the individual,” Walk said.
Other students in Western’s first group of 16 to Succeed graduates include: Jace Flanagan, of Riverton, Wyo.; Clayton Caldwell, of Sanger, Calif.; Alexis Erickson, of Afton, Wyo.; Taylor Larsen, of Logan, Utah; and Jenna Sawatzki, of Farmington, Utah.
16 to Succeed is also open to part-time students. They can sign an agreement to complete their degrees in four years by taking at least eight credits per semester (fall and spring) for a total of 16 credits per year.
“We tell students to take 16 to Succeed because the majority of our associate-degree programs are 64 credits, so 16 credits per semester over four semesters, or per year over four years, will have them graduating on time, which is the purpose of this program,” Rembacz explained.