A Year Ahead of the Game: Kiest-Morgan Scholar Program at Thomas College

Published: Wednesday, September 7, 2016

When Reilly Kons is asked what year he is in college, it is not an easy answer.

Kons is a Kiest-Morgan Scholar, which is a program that allows students to obtain their Bachelor’s degree in three years instead of four.

Although this is his third year at Thomas College, he is considered a senior and will graduate in May.

The Kiest-Morgan Scholar’s Program, which began in Fall 2014 with the help of a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc., is a three-year degree program for qualifying students that saves students at least 25 percent of the total cost of college with one less year of tuition, room, and board.

The 20-year-old said he chose Thomas College specifically because of the program.

He was first considering a school in Massachusetts, until he received his financial package and realized how much he was going to owe after graduation.

At the same time, Kons received a letter from Thomas College about the new Kiest-Morgan Program.

“I had never heard of it before,” he said. “It just made sense financially.”

Kons, who is a Marketing Management major and Finance minor, said he is happy he found a program that allows him to start his career sooner.

Students who are a part of the Kiest-Morgan program take extra courses during the semester, and enroll in specially-designed online courses over the summer that allow them to accelerate their program. In addition, they begin working with Career Services from the very beginning of their program to line up internships and prepare their resumes.

Kons said getting your Bachelor’s degree in three years is not as intense as it sounds.

“You are only adding one more course a semester. If you’re taking five classes already and working towards getting good grades in those classes, then adding another class – you just don’t even realize it.”

Kons said this past summer he was able to live at home in Thompson, ME and work, while taking his courses online for no charge.

In its third year, there are 52 students in the Kiest-Morgan program; last year there were 34. In May 2017, the first group of KM students will graduate – and Kons will be one of them.

Access and Affordability

Thomas College is committed to providing opportunities for students who may not otherwise have the chance. Almost 70 percent of students are the first in their family to attend college, and a lot are paying for school on their own.

The three-year program allows students to save a whole year’s tuition, room and board – about 25 percent – towards their undergraduate degree. That’s one less year of paying for school, and one more year of earning money in the workforce.

Thomas College Provost Thomas Edwards sees the program as a great opportunity for students.

“The Three-Year Bachelor’s breaks down the traditional barriers of time and space for highly motivated students,” he said. “It makes college more affordable without sacrificing quality. Students still get the full college experience, inside and outside the classroom, but they are just moving ahead toward their futures at a faster pace.”

Because the program has proved so successful, in 2017, the College will expand its three-year Bachelor’s program beyond majors in the business fields to include Arts and Sciences majors as well. Students in programs such as Psychology, Criminal Justice, Communications and Political Science will be able to join the program beginning in the Fall of 2017.

Success

Kons will graduate in May, one year earlier than most of his peers, as part of the first Kiest-Morgan Scholar Program class to graduate. But his success is not just limited to the classroom.

Kons is very involved on-campus. Last year, he was involved with the Student Senate, PBL (the collegiate division of Future Business Leaders of America) and Club Green Thomas. He was also a Resident Assistant on campus.

Kons spent the summer interning with Unum in Portland in the Long Term Cares Benefits department, and this school year, he is interning at the State of Maine Office of Information Technology as a Management Analyst.

Kons said besides saving a lot of money, this program also allows him to complete his degree sooner and obtain his goal of working an exciting job afterwards.

“I think of myself as a fairly career-driven person and I’m really excited to start my career.”

Kons encourages others to try out this program. He hopes to get the word out because once people realize you can save a whole year of tuition, he said people are going to say, “Yes, let’s do it. Why not?”

*Note: This story was originally published in the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal’s “College Bound” excerpt on September 7, 2016.

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