Butler announced its plan for a new two-year college during a press conference on Nov. 3. Photo courtesy of stories.butler.edu.
ALISON MICCOLIS | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF | firstname.lastname@example.org
In August 2025, Butler will welcome its first cohort of students to the newly-established two-year college. The university looks to close the opportunity gap and open the doors to higher education for historically underserved students.
The two-year college, from which students receive an associate’s degree, aims to break down two main barriers of a Butler education for local high schoolers — the cost and how an undergraduate degree is traditionally structured in terms of timeline, course load and residential requirements. According to the university’s press release, students enrolled in the college can obtain their associate’s degree with “no debt or out-of-pocket expenses.”
In collaboration with the Come To Believe Network, Butler looks to enroll around 100 to 200 students in each graduating class. After completing their associate’s degree, the students will work with Butler staff to decide next steps, which for some may include finishing their bachelor’s degree in one of Butler’s other six colleges.
What is Come To Believe?
The Come To Believe Network is a national nonprofit that helps four-year institutions plan and launch two-year colleges. The Come To Believe model of education is meant to serve students who, historically, have limited access to higher education. Stephanie Hinshaw is executive director of the Transformation Lab — an internal team dedicated to vetting, designing, and launching new educational and business models for the university — on campus and played an integral role in developing Butler’s two-year college.
“It’s a different model of education,” Hinshaw said. “It is different than your traditional residential model. It is designed for historically underserved and historically underrepresented students and backwards design with that — with scheduling, with commuter access, with holistic wraparound support services to meet those needs.”
According to their website, the Come To Believe model graduates more students than other two-year colleges — over 50% in two years compared to 13% nationally.
Butler is the third university to implement the Come To Believe model. The first was Loyola University Chicago in 2015 and the second was the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota in 2017.
What is it going to look like?
The two-year college is going to be “co-locating” in the South Campus main building with the College of Education. All students will be commuting to campus and will have the option of either morning or late afternoon block classes. This kind of intentional scheduling will allow students to work or carry out other responsibilities they may have at home while simultaneously working towards their degree. Classes are held four days a week with the fifth day being reserved for a paid internship — something Butler is requiring for four semesters as part of their model.
Students will complete the entire Butler Core Curriculum in addition to completing coursework specific to their degree.
Right now, Butler is planning on offering three different majors in the two-year college. While these majors are not solidified yet, one will be health-based and one business-based.
Students in the two-year college will have the same support services four-year students have. For example, there will be a designated counselor, transfer coordinator, retention coordinator, financial aid specialist and career services staff member working specifically with two-year college students. These resources will be concentrated in the new college in order to provide a more centralized and team-based approach to support.
“It’s really meant to be a one-stop-shop to student support because a lot of our students are going to have to work while they’re in school,” Hinshaw said. “So if you’re working 30-some hours a week and you are going to classes, let’s say, 20-some hours a week, even those times of getting to the registrar office or getting to the career services office, those are times that perhaps do not work. So with that in mind, that is kind of how it’s a centralized, holistic support service.”
Hinshaw said the creation of the college can act as a catalyst for change at the entire university. She said Butler can take this opportunity to look at the support services offered to four-year students and see how those can be improved — for example, more intentional scheduling for commuter students.
In order to integrate the new college with the already-established colleges at Butler, the university is modifying the traditional Come To Believe model. This will include having faculty affiliates from other colleges also teach classes in the two-year college. Students will have a list of certain electives they can choose to take with four-year students. They will also have access to the extracurricular activities available to four-year students including representation in Student Government Association, tickets for athletic events and the ability to create their own student organizations.
While workshopping the Come To Believe model, Hinshaw and her team held focus groups with local guidance counselors and community-based organizations such as the Center for Leadership Development, Starfish Initiative and the Indiana Latino Institute. All groups were eager to recommend students. These contacts are the main avenues Butler will use to recruit students to the college.
How will it be funded?
“If students would otherwise qualify for a Pell Grant [but] are undocumented students, so they don’t qualify for state or federal aid, we’re working with a national partner to offset the costs for those students,” Barnett said.
In order to provide students an associate’s degree with no debt or out-of-pocket expenses, Butler is raising money through endowments and donations to cover the remaining costs not covered by federal and state aid. Barnett said they will not be using institutional dollars.
If students decide to continue at Butler and work towards a four-year degree, most will have the opportunity to do so for $10,000 or less. In addition to scholarship money, the cost will be offset with endowments.
President James Danko first had the idea for “a $10,000 degree” several years ago. He is excited to see his “moonshot idea” become a reality.
“We need to get back to our founding mission in terms of providing accessibility to education to those that might not otherwise be able to afford it,” Danko said. “The funding is so critical because we do fully expect that the first two years of the program are going to be without debt, so we are going to make sure that we have those resources in place.”
How did it come to be?
In recent years, Butler has been exploring various avenues to expand and innovate their higher education model. Some potential programs included an apprenticeship model of education or degrees that connect to local work needs. While the university was workshopping these models, they received an email from Come To Believe.
The Come To Believe Network contacted Butler in summer 2022, saying they believed the school could host a successful model of the program. Hinshaw took the initial phone call.
“We learned about [Come To Believe] and really came to respect the results of what the model was and how other universities were able to implement such a model and make the broader university better for it,” Hinshaw said.
Butler then joined the Come To Believe design cohort. More than a dozen faculty and staff members spent the following months learning about the model and how it could be applied to Butler’s campus.
In the Transformation Lab, Hinshaw and her colleagues created a plan. In spring 2023 they gathered feedback from faculty, staff and community partners. In June 2023 they received approval from the Board of Trustees and in fall 2023, endorsement from faculty.
Khalilah Shabazz, vice president and chief diversity officer, said Butler’s two-year college opens pathways for historically underserved students who belong at the university, but may not have the access or opportunity to go in that direction.
“The Butler community will be better as we have varying perspectives — students with different backgrounds and experiences and life stories to add to who we are,” Shabazz said. “Our founding mission said that we are going to provide this equitable opportunity for women and people of color to be educated. And then look at now — the other piece of that that’s huge is students who may be from low-income backgrounds. This model creates that additional pathway.”
What are the next steps?
One critical next step before students take their first class at the two-year college is hiring faculty and staff; this includes an inaugural dean.
Brooke Kandel, dean of the College of Education, is chair of the dean search committee. She and her team — comprised of faculty and staff representatives from across campus — are not part of the hiring body, but help with much of the behind-the-scenes work of finding the inaugural leader.
“We are looking for someone who is student centered [and] understands the importance of students having a positive, affirming experience,” Kandel said. “Someone who understands belonging and what that looks like in an academic context. Someone who understands the kind of gifts and experiences and what we sometimes call ‘funds of knowledge’ that students bring to any organization but especially a higher education campus — like what are the things that they’re bringing that really are enhancing our community as we learn together and grow together?”
The search committee designated Kimberly Beck, associate professor and pharmacy program director, as the inclusion advocate for the search. This role, required for every search committee, is someone who is trained on how to conduct an inclusive and fair search at all stages, including the language used to advertise the search, the way the committee interacts with the candidates and the way they assess the candidates.
While there is much work to be done before welcoming the first cohort of students to campus, Hinshaw is ready for this next chapter in Butler’s history.
“I am so excited for what’s going to happen at the entire university,” Hinshaw said. “Being able to have more diverse thinking, more diverse lifestyles, more diverse perspectives — we’re all going to be better because of that.”