NIU and Highland sign online bachelor's degree completion pact

A new agreement between Highland Community College and Northern Illinois University will make it easier for HCC automotive technology and wind turbine technician students and graduates to earn a bachelor's degree that will set them on the path to career success.

In a ceremony held on Highland's campus on Tuesday, October 27, representatives from the two institutions approved a new degree completion program that will allow HCC students to earn a Bachelor of Science in Technology degree from NIU without leaving the region.

"Postsecondary education is a powerful force for career advancement, and a skilled workforce helps the region maintain its competitive advantage," said NIU President Doug Baker. "Both NIU and Highland are committed to providing affordable access to high-quality educational opportunities and we are delighted to partner with them on this initiative, which eliminates barriers and fosters an innovative educational pathway to career success."

The agreement is aimed specifically at HCC students who have earned an associate of applied science in one of three areas - auto body repair, automotive mechanics, or wind turbine technician.

"We value our partnership with NIU in this effort to continue to provide new educational and career pathways to the residents of northwest Illinois," said Highland President Tim Hood. "This agreement is yet another example of how Highland continues to expand its partnerships with four-year institutions in order to create more options for our graduates."

Students who earn an associate of applied science degree in those areas can complete remaining general education and all BS program prerequisites at HCC or NIU before taking their final 30 hours of technology courses with NIU, either online or at the university's DeKalb campus. Upon completion of that work, students will graduate with a bachelor of science in technology, with an emphasis in applied manufacturing technology from NIU's College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

"This is a great program for place-bound professionals, who are working or already have their AAS degree," said Cliff Mirman, chair of the Department of Technology at NIU's College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. "It allows students to take classes online, at their own pace, and to earn a bachelor's degree, which opens up great opportunities for career advancement."

The online component features recorded lectures by NIU faculty, the opportunity to interact with faculty and an array of online materials that enrich the learning experience, Mirman said.

Promod Vohra, dean of the engineering school at NIU, hailed the program as a boom to the Illinois economy, saying that, "Engineering technologist trained for leadership are a catalyst for innovation," said Vohra. "We are excited about this program, and this partnership, because it helps to ensure that our region will remain a vital player in the global economy."

Highland's dean of Business and Technology, Scott Anderson, explained the unique nature of the partnership. "The associate of applied science has been seen as a ‘vocational degree’ that simply prepared people for a life-long career in their chosen field.  However, with this new partnership, the pathway to the advanced credential of a bachelor’s degree is made available," said Anderson.

More information on NIU's online degree program in applied manufacturing technology is available on line at or by contacting Stacey Deegan ( at 815.753.9943.

For information about HCC's auto body repair, automotive mechanics or wind turbine technician programs visit or by contacting HCC Admissions at 815.599.3414.

(L-R) Thedford Jackson, Highland transfer coordinator and student advisor; Omar Ghrayeb, NIU associate dean, Outreach and Undergraduate Programs; Doug Block, HCC board chairman; Tim Hood, Highland president; Cliff Mirman, professor and chair, Department of Technology at NIU and Scott Anderson, Highland dean of Business & Technology.

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