(Photo by August Jennewein)

Getting students out of college faster with better job prospects and less debt is the goal of an “Innovation Campus” program to be established at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Wednesday that UMSL received a $1 million grant for the program. In all, $9 million in grants were awarded to establish Innovation Campuses throughout the state. The goal of these campuses is to train students for career opportunities in high-demand fields, cut the time it takes to earn a college degree and reduce student debt.

“The university is excited to be involved in a program initiated by the governor that helps students graduate faster and get into the workforce quicker,” said Nasser Arshadi, vice provost for research at UMSL.

Under the program, UMSL will design curricula in partnership with businesses in areas of great demand, such as information technology, biotech, health and financial services. Classroom education will be supplemented with internships and apprenticeships offered through business partners. The accelerated degree program will shave one year off the ordinary degree track. The program will target high school juniors and adults either with some college credit but no degree or those with a degree in a low-demand field.

The pilot program will focus on information technology, specifically information systems and network engineering, eventually expanding to include biotechnology and health and financial services.

The initial class of 30 participants will include 25 high school juniors and five adults, with a starting date of fall 2013.

UMSL’s academic partners in the program include St. Louis Community College, Washington University in St. Louis, Affton (Mo.) School District, Orchard Farm High School in St. Charles, Mo., Soldan International Studies High School in St. Louis and Webster Groves (Mo.) High School. Along with the nonprofit Innovate St. Louis, the program’s business collaborators include Appistry, Inc., Equifax, Inc., Spry Digital, LLC and Unisys Corporation.

Myra Lopez

Myra Lopez