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INDIANAPOLIS — It used to be a small church, down the road from the main campus of Marian University.
Now, Saint Joseph's College of Marian University is a new educational pathway, helping students achieve big dreams.
For Des Soper, 21, a new student at the new college, she knows it's already going to be a good fit for her.
Soper loves art history and wants to go into the business and management side of art collecting.
This college program, she feels, could connect her to the right people to reach her goals.
"The thing that really stuck out to me about St. Joseph's," Soper says, "was the Earn & Learn program. We have the opportunity to build connections with other businesses and build networking."
Soper has been attending classes at St. Joe Indy, since they first started in early July.
St. Joe Indy is a brand new program through Marian University, in which students can earn an associates degree in business administration or liberal arts in 2 years, while, at the same time, working as paid interns.
The school calls it "Earn & Learn."
Billed as an innovative model, where administrators sought solutions for some of the issues throughout higher education as an industry, such as cost, access, relevancy of curriculum to workforce, and creating pathways to the workforce.
St. Joseph College Executive Director Jeff Jourdan tells RTV6, "We are helping students get valuable work experience while they are taking classes, while they are earning their degree. So logistically, it bakes out to two days of class a week and three days of work a week.
The slogan painted on one of the corridor walls at St. Joe's is "Better Together."
It's a phrase that rings true, since St. Joseph's is working together with so many employer partners.
"Our faculty sit with our business partners, learn about the skills and competencies that are necessary to do those jobs well, and then we map those back into our classroom experience," says Jourdan.
The school's program model focuses on a combination of class work and apprenticeship.
Local employers, which have committed to offering paid internships to St. Joe Indy students include Allison Transmission, Community Health Network, Infosys, Key Bank, One America, Shiel Sexton, SnapShyft, StatWax, The Heritage Group, Pondurance, and the Brookfield Group.
The college is looking for more employer partners to broaden its industry range.
As far as cost for students and their families, $17,000 a year covers tuition, fees, books, meal plan and parking.
Administrators say families can leverage state and federal financial aid.
That, combined with the earnings from the paid internships, create a debt free education model, according to administrators.
Des Soper says she tried a conventional university experience did not work for her, but this new plan at St. Joe Indy will work for her.
She shares, "Way less stressful than the other college experience that I had. I already know that with the right budgeting I can make it through on what I'm going to be earning and learning."
So far, there are just 35 students, but the school is hoping to bring in up to 400 students over the next 3 to 5 years.
Leonardo Ortiz is one of those students in the inaugural class.
He knows that's what counts and what he's looking for in this educational experience.
"Honestly," Ortiz says, "to get as much job experience as i can. I mean, nowadays that's what matters --- how much you practice in the field and how, what you're capable of doing in the workforce."