Northland’s Liberal Arts program recognized for educational excellence, affordability and career earning potential for grads

    Northland Community and Technical College has once again earned national praise for its combination of affordability and educational excellence. Following up on last year’s “Top 10” ranking as one of the best community colleges in the nation , according to a 2019 WalletHub study, Northland’s Liberal Arts degree has this year been singled out as one of the top 25 two-year programs in the country. Ranked number 24 in this year’s  “25 Best Associate in Liberal Arts Colleges” report  by GradReports based on Department of Education data, Northland was recognized for delivering impressive earning potential — and the second-lowest tuition cost — for liberal arts students earning associate degrees.

    “I’ve been at Northland since 2001, and I’m excited to say this is our first recognition focused on the Associate of Arts degree itself,” said Northland Provost Brian Huschle. “It tells me that the work our faculty do is valued, our students are getting good paying jobs after they graduate and also do well when they transfer to continue their education.”

    The award for Northland is timely, as it highlights the value of local, community-driven education that is oftentimes more flexible, accessible, and certainly more affordable than what can be offered by larger institutions. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Northland is well positioned to seamlessly continue offering academic excellence to students with its many online offerings, small socially-distanced class sizes, and flexible schedules that allow students to earn their degrees in a non-traditional fashion.

    The college is also launching a new cost-saving initiative this fall to further its mission of reducing financial barriers that may prevent would-be students from achieving their academic goals. Called the Z-Degree, the program utilizes freely available open educational resources (OER) to eliminate textbook costs, saving students upwards of $2,000 over the course of their time at Northland.

    “One of the things we’re always doing at Northland is keeping expenses low for our students,” Huschle said. “Our new Z-Degree, which launches this fall, is another huge step towards that affordability goal. We’ve earned 4 grants to develop courses and curricula that will use free OER materials, which will be made available to our students on day one of class. With Z-Degree, a student can earn their Liberal Arts degree without ever paying for a textbook, saving them more than 15% compared to a traditional two-year degree.”

    Z-Degree courses will reside within the Liberal Arts program — the very program that just earned national recognition — and be composed of general education credits that are required for all two-year degrees at Northland.

    So while a student may not necessarily be seeking a Liberal Arts degree, they will still be able to take advantage of Z-Degree courses with free OER materials.

    “All of our Associate of Arts classes can be completed online, too,” said Huschle. “Our online offerings — from business and marketing to even practical nursing — is one of the unique things about Northland that distinguishes us perhaps now more than ever given our new socially-distanced world. Having that flexibility to be able to meet online depending on what the future brings... Northland is going to be able to make good on our mission and vision of delivering affordability and quality to our students, as well as supporting our local industry and economy even during these uncertain times.”