MISSOULA ꟷ Missoula College and the University of Montana announce the creation and open enrollment of the University’s first online associate of arts and associate of sciences degrees.
The two-year online degrees recognize the pandemic’s effect on an emerging remote workforce and new learners, while reflecting the University’s mission to provide accessible education, said Tom Gallagher, dean of Missoula College.
“Missoula College is thrilled to announce these two new degrees, which we’ve been working on for some time,” Gallagher said. “All of us at UM and at Missoula College have been thinking deeply about serving our community by making education accessible. The new online AA and AS degrees speak directly to those efforts.”
Offered through UMOnline and hosted by Missoula College, each associate degree includes 60 credits of general education classes through Missoula College. Both degrees are intended as transfer degrees to any four-year degree program, including those at UM.
“The primary purpose of the AA and AS degree is for transferring and for our students to ultimately complete a baccalaureate degree,” Gallagher said. “Our staff and faculty are here to help students in that trajectory every step of the way.”
Nearly every institution in the Montana University System recognizes an AA or AS degree for satisfying general education credits.
Students pursuing an online AA or AS degree can work closely with an academic adviser to design a curriculum tailored to their academic and professional goals, and online students will have access to support services for academic advising, tuition and scholarship support, tutorial needs and technology support. Students pursuing an AA or AS also can take up to six credits a semester on UM’s central mountain campus.
Gallagher said credits for either the AS or AA can be paired with one of several Missoula College certificate programs and students can add a workforce credential to complete the degree.
“The idea is that our students will develop career skills in addition to preparing for a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “If you graduate from Missoula College, we make sure you’re ready for any job and that extends to students looking to transfer into four-year degree programs.”
The new online degrees were developed with a specific focus on active military members, who may be deployed all over the world. Kim Reiser, Missoula College department chair of Applied Arts and Sciences, said the new online degrees can reach new learners, including active military, whether they are a Montana resident or not.
“We’re excited the new associate degree offerings can open doors, including our actively deployed members of the military,” she said.
Reiser said she worked closely with UM’s Mansfield Center’s Defense Critical Language and Culture Program, which provides language and cultural training to active military members for the Department of Defense and for U.S. National Security objectives. She said there was a clear need to make online programs more accessible to active military students.
“We realized that providing associates degrees online is another way to help our military service members get a jump-start on their education, and to have college credit attached to their military service.”
Reiser said the degrees may be particularly attractive to federal, nonresident, military service members, who are actively deployed and may want to begin completing general education requirements. The capability of UM’s Vets Office to provide liaison support to active military members was noted in UM being named one of the top military-friendly online colleges in 2020.
For the last two years, Reiser said Missoula College faculty members have been reviewing the student experience of their pathway to a degree, from the application process all the way to completion.
“We found breakdowns in various places, and that information has helped us to refine how we can best provide support to onboard students and get them set up for classes,” she said. “We now have a short application on the website, and the entire process is easier. The result is a bigger and better effort to serve our military and general student populations.”
For more information on the new online associates of arts and sciences degrees or to apply, visit https://www.umt.edu/umonline/programs/associateminors.php.