Editor's note: This story first appeared in the fall 2019 issue of the Concordian, the official magazine of Concordia University Wisconsin.

While there are plenty of reasons to not rush through one’s collegiate experience, the benefits of an early walk across the commencement stage also cannot be denied.

As a Lutheran higher education community, Concordia’s commitment to developing “students in mind, body, and spirit for service to Christ in the Church and the world” also extends to helping students be good stewards of their time and financial resources. Spurred by the desire to offer learners more flexibility, greater cost savings, or early graduation, Concordia has launched multiple programs over the past several years strategically designed to respond to learners’ needs, without sacrificing the educational caliber the job market demands.

For those motivated students who know early on what they’re called to do, and are ambitious enough to make it happen in as few years as possible, Concordia offers a few attractive  options.

Business Scholars

As the daughter of two self-made small business owners, Gia Fazal knows what it takes to accomplish ambitious goals.

In her early years of life, Fazal’s parents both held successful jobs in the restaurant industry—her dad was a general manager of Buffalo Wild Wings and her mother was a manager of a P.F. Chang’s. But when her father was diagnosed with a brain tumor, it forced the couple to make some career changes.

At age 9, Fazal watched as her parents built their own company, CMG Detailing, from the ground up. Based in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, the company specializes in personalized automotive detailing. Her parents’ grit and determination lit a fire in Fazal.

“You feel like a boss when you see all these things that you’ve set out to accomplish come together,” Fazal said. “The reward becomes sweeter when you put in the hard work to get there.”

And she has carried that philosophy with her into Concordia. Fazal will graduate in 2022 (just four years after she began) with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree—and she’ll get to do it for the price of just one degree, thanks to Concordia’s Business Scholars program.

High-achieving incoming freshmen have the opportunity to apply for Business Scholars to take advantage of the deal. Through Business Scholars, students can acquire an undergraduate degree in a business field, as well as a Master of Business Administration in just four years.

While the reward is sweet, the path to get there is rigorous. These student scholars are required to maintain a 3.5 GPA and complete internships related to both their undergraduate and graduate degrees. This is only possible by maintaining a year-round course schedule of full academic loads averaging at least 18 credits per semester.

Fazal, who is working toward her undergraduate in business and an MBA in entrepreneurship, learned about the opportunity after she was already enrolled at CUW. When she started at Concordia, a master’s degree wasn’t on her radar, but the deal was too good to pass up.

“Not every company wants that piece of paper, but if I do have it, it gives me a leg up,” Fazal said. “And it’ll be helpful to be able to show that I was in this program that was really prestigious, just to back myself as a legitimate business person.”

Fazal hasn’t fully made up her mind about where she wants to end up after graduation. She’s entertaining the idea of owning her own café art studio and also plans to stay involved with her parents’ business. Either way, she plans to stay busy.

“I had a friend in high school tell me, ‘In your future, I see you in pants suits,’” Fazal said. “I thought that was a really fun compliment to get. I think I have that persona, and I’m at my best when I’m busy.

Route 38

Two things initially attracted Spencer Woller to Concordia: its small class sizes and the chance to attend a school where he could express his faith.

A new program launched last fall further solidified his decision.

The program, called Route 38, allows traditional undergraduate students to customize their academic schedule and maximize their budget by paying the regular full-time tuition rate for up to 38 credits across fall, spring, and summer semesters.

Students can leverage the opportunity, for example, by shifting some of their course load from the fall or spring semesters to the summer. Before, students had to pay an additional fee for summer courses.

For Woller, Route 38 provided the flexibility he needed to participate in the Federal Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) while still pursuing his secondary education degree. As part of his ROTC commitment, Woller travels to downtown Milwaukee every Monday through Friday morning during the academic year to participate in military officer training classes.

The problem he ran into: Two of his requisite courses are only offered in the mornings throughout his CUW tenure. Woller was faced with tacking on a semester or paying extra for summer courses. With Route 38, though, he was thrilled to learn he had a new option.

“I was prepared to just pay extra, but I’m so thankful everything fell into place,” Woller said. “I saved $3,600 because of Route 38.”

The program is geared toward education and nursing majors because of the formats of each. National trends show that it’s a challenge to complete either degree within four years at any university, said Robert Nowak, assistant vice president of enrollment. Students are typically required to take some summer courses, and the programs are also heavy on internship/clinical experiences.

Route 38 also provides a convenient path toward early or on-time graduation. While students are allowed to take up to 18 credits a semester at the traditional tuition rate, the average student’s capacity ends up being closer to 15.

“We value providing a high-quality educational experience that doesn’t place undue burden on students,” Nowak said. “Route 38 has allowed students to stay on track or even ahead without getting overwhelmed, or feeling like they had to give up certain activities.”

Pre-college program

Before she even stepped foot on Concordia’s campus this past August, Alicia Gutknecht was already ahead of schedule.

She had to sacrifice some of her high school study halls to do it, but Gutknecht, who is majoring in nursing, earned 21 college credits during her time at Living Word Lutheran. Not only did the frontloading allow her to lighten her course load her freshman year at CUW (in anticipation of tough courses she felt would require extra study time), Concordia granted back 100 percent of the dual credit tuition she paid. Essentially, she earned 21 credits for free.

Thanks to Concordia’s precollege programs, more than 1,000 students have been able to jump-start their college career at a reduced price. The pre-college programs include the Concordia Promise Dual Credit Program— for Christian high schools or homeschools—and Wisconsin’s Early College Credit Program (ECCP)—for public or private high schools in Wisconsin. For students in the Concordia Promise Program who go on to enroll at CUW or CUAA (like Gutknecht), Concordia also offers the Concordia Promise PLUS Program, which grants back the cost of dual credit tuition paid.

Even though Concordia has been offering dual credit options since 2012, the university has ramped up its programs in recent years. In fact, the Concordia Promise Dual Credit Program and the Concordia Promise PLUS Program are among the most competitive pricing options in the nation for homeschooled or Christian high school students ($50 per credit or free for students who matriculate to CUW/CUAA).

Over the past seven years, Concordia has helped more than 1,100 students earn over 7,000 pre-college credits. Of the 106 homes or high schools reached throughout the world, 83 percent of the students were from Christian schools or were homeschooled.

“I have a younger brother who is at Living Word right now, and I did encourage him to do it, as well,” Gutknecht said. “I told him that even though it might be difficult initially, in the future you’ll thank yourself.”

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The fall 2019 Concordian hit mailboxes the end of September. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, call 262-243-4333. 

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at kali.thiel@cuw.edu or 262-243-2149.

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