Michigan Partnership Between Two- and Four-Year Institutions Thrives

Back in 1986, Grand Rapids Junior College, now Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), and Ferris State University (FSU) developed a partnership to meet labor demands. Students earned their associate degree at GRCC, then transferred to Ferris for their bachelor’s degree — all without leaving the GRCC campus. The collaborative programs combined courses at both institutions and reduced costs for students. Classes offered in the evenings and on weekends opened new possibilities for students with work and family commitments.
"In 2022, that may seem like a logical approach, but in 1986 it was revolutionary," says David Eisler, PhD, president of Ferris State University and past chair of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact. The two institutions worked hard to blend their cultures to bridge the differences and challenges in their distinctive environments.  
The partnership has grown to include more than a dozen bachelor’s degree options, numerous certificate programs, and now graduate degree programs. Given that some of these collaborative programs are 3+1 rather than 2+2, the pathway through an associate degree to a bachelor's degree provides a level of affordability that is hard to beat, according to Bill Pink, PhD, GRCC’s president and a MHEC commissioner.
Programs in technical fields—including automotive, construction, electronics, HVACR, manufacturing and plastics—remain strengths but new programs in business, healthcare, hospitality management, digital animation, and game design have emerged as well. In addition, the partnership has added graduate degrees to the mix in such areas as criminal justice administration, pharmacy, public health, and business.
"The partnership is an incredible example of how two institutions, with the community by their sides, forged a collaborative relationship that has provided strong avenues for academic success for many folks in our West Michigan region," says Dr. Pink. GRCC remains FSU’s largest transfer partner. In the past ten years, 2,216 GRCC students have transferred to Ferris, with 1,158 earning a four-year degree.
“Collaboration is a hallmark of west Michigan,” says Dr. Eisler. “Nothing exemplifies that better than this remarkable partnership. Working together, we can make an important educational difference for our students and their futures.”

Note: This spring GRCC’s president, Bill Pink, was selected as the finalist to become the next president of Ferris State University. The university’s Board of Trustees will vote Friday, May 6, to confirm him as the 19th president of the University.