UNK and CCC Announce New Criminal Justice Pathway Program

GRAND ISLAND – The University of Nebraska at Kearney and Central Community College are working together to fill a statewide need for law enforcement officers and other criminal justice professionals.

A new pathway program launching this fall makes it easier for students to start their criminal justice education at CCC before finishing a bachelor’s degree at UNK. The 2+2 plan creates a seamless transition between the partner institutions and provides additional flexibility for transfer students and working professionals.

“There’s a strong demand for law enforcement and criminal justice professionals across the state,” said associate professor Timbre Wulf, chair of UNK’s Department of Criminal Justice. “Agencies are looking for highly educated, skilled individuals to fill these positions, and a bachelor’s degree really gives applicants a leg up.”

The criminal justice partnership was announced Friday at College Park in Grand Island during an event attended by representatives from several area law enforcement agencies.

“This 2+2 pathway between our two programs will provide another great opportunity for students once they complete their associate degree in criminal justice at CCC,” said Michael David, CCC criminal justice instructor. “This collaborative effort will be a win-win for everyone involved in central Nebraska and is just the beginning of great things to come between UNK and CCC’s criminal justice programs.”

The pathway program is a “road map” to a four-year degree. Students can follow a semester-by-semester course plan or take classes at a pace that better fits their schedule.

The first 60 credit hours are earned at CCC, which offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in criminal justice through its Grand Island, Hastings and Columbus locations as well as some online. The associate degree equips students with the skills and knowledge necessary for entry-level employment in law enforcement, corrections and related careers within the criminal justice field.

“Students who follow the road map and complete their degree now have a local option to complete both a two- and four-year degree in criminal justice,” said Candace Walton, CCC vice president of innovation and instruction. “We are proud to provide continued opportunities for central Nebraskans to study, live and work near home.”

After graduating from CCC, students can complete a bachelor’s degree through UNK in just two years. This option is also available to working professionals with an associate degree from CCC who want to advance their education or move up in their careers. Under the Nebraska Law Enforcement Education Act, sworn officers may be eligible for a waiver covering 30% of their resident tuition costs.

UNK’s criminal justice program prepares students for careers at the municipal, county, state and federal levels, as well as graduate and law school. Taught by faculty with both real-world and research experience, the curriculum includes applied-learning experiences and specialized courses reflecting current trends in justice.

The university offers criminal justice degrees that can be completed entirely online or through a traditional, on-campus format.

To expand access to the program, select UNK criminal justice courses are also offered at College Park in Grand Island, 3180 W. U.S. Highway 34, which is located just west of CCC. Those courses can be combined with online, blended or in-person classes in Kearney.

“Attending classes on the UNK campus may not be an option for everyone. Through our partnership with College Park, we’re able to provide some flexibility for these students and bring additional educational opportunities to the community,” said Matthew R. Bice, associate dean of graduate studies at UNK.

Eventually, UNK would like to offer most of its criminal justice courses in Grand Island, in addition to Kearney.

The criminal justice pathway is the first program launched by UNK and CCC as part of the Equity Transfer Initiative, a two-year partnership aimed at increasing transfer and completion rates for Black, Hispanic, adult and first-generation learners. The national initiative is led by the American Association of Community Colleges in collaboration with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

“First and foremost, this program provides important opportunities for students. They’re always our top priority,” Wulf said. “It also helps strengthen our relationship with CCC, and CCC is an important partner for UNK as a whole.”

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