Making College More Affordable: Westminster Launches Unique Degree in Three Program That Includes a Certificate in Global Leadership

Two students walk together on a sunny day in front of the Columns at Westminster College.

Westminster College is launching a Degree in Three program for those who want to graduate as quickly as possible while receiving a complete on-campus experience as well as a certificate in Global Leadership.

Degree in Three officially began on June 12, 2023, for the 2023-2024 Academic Year and is already open to applicants for admission in the fall of 2024.

Dr. Ingrid Ilinca, Vice President, Chief Academic Officer, Provost, and Co-Chief Student Retention Officer, began creating the program in 2019 after encountering a number of students who wanted to enter the workforce or attend graduate school as quickly as possible.

“A lot of students today are go-getters who often are very good at self-advising even before starting college … they look into options on their own and do their math,” Ilinca says.

The math Ilinca is referring to is the steadily rising cost of higher education nationwide which is driving students and their parents to look for more affordable solutions to receiving a bachelor’s degree. At a time of heightened debt awareness, attending classes on campus year-round to save on tuition and housing is an excellent option for motivated students who prefer an accelerated path to their chosen career.

Unique to Westminster’s Degree in Three program, students begin their college experience together in the summer, earning nine credits during each of those terms for three years. During the regular academic year, they complete 16 to 17 credits each semester.

As a result, students graduate in three years with at least 122 credits: the average number required for graduation at most college and universities and the minimum requirement for a Westminster College bachelor of arts degree.

During the three consecutive summer terms, Degree in Three students complete up to 64% of their general education requirements, allowing them to focus on their major courses and participate in activities ― including NCAA sports, fraternity and sorority life, or other time-intensive activities ― during the fall and spring sessions.

Also unique to Degree in Three is its availability to all Westminster students, no matter what they are majoring in, although careful planning and advising are needed for enrollment in pre-professional programs.

Ilinca adds that the on-campus summer courses are not limited to those enrolled in the Degree in Three program. Some courses are open to the general student population and even to local, non-degree seeking students who need transfer credit.

And while the program may appear on the surface to be like accelerated programs at other colleges and universities in recent years, Ilinca emphasizes it is nothing of the sort.

“The Degree in Three program is not just a collection of courses,” she explains. “We were intentional about designing a program that prepares our students for the demands in the workplace.”

That intentionality means that students follow a highly structured format each summer. During the first summer term, they focus on academic writing and quantitative reasoning, with a couple of alternatives for those who already earned dual credit in English or math.

Summer courses are structured to progress with the students as they complete the program together, while they also participate in a number of activities organized by the Office of Student Life so they receive a true Westminster experience that is strongly rooted in relationships and one-on-one interaction.

All along, Degree in Three students gradually develop their leadership and communication skills, which Ilinca points out are listed among the career readiness competencies by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, or NACE.

Many of the NACE competencies are built into the certificate in Global Leadership all Degree in Three students earn along with their bachelor’s degree.

Ilinca says, “Really, this program offers a lot for today’s students, and it is so much more than just a quick degree. Earning a certificate in Global Leadership gives our graduates a competitive advantage when applying for their first job and, more importantly, they will be prepared for the challenges they will necessarily encounter as citizens of a global community.”

For more information on Westminster College’s Degree in Three program, please contact Kimberly Luebbering, Director of Recruitment, at or 573-592-5155.


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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.