Viterbo and Aquinas agreement offers fast track toward college degree

Students at Aquinas can earn Viterbo credits; graduate college in three years through new partnership

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – A student’s first day of school at Aquinas High School could also be their first day of college. Students who go to Aquinas High School can graduate from college a year sooner. That’s thanks to a new partnership with Viterbo University.

“This partnership has been in the works for about a year now,” said Richard Trietley, interim president of Viterbo University.

A collaborative agreement signed Tuesday, allows students to take college courses, shaving a year off their college careers.

“A door is now open to a young high school-age girl who has an interest in one day becoming an engineer,” said Matt Binsfeld, a former member of the Aquinas Catholic Schools Foundation. “Through the collaboration agreement, as early as her sophomore year in high school she is able to take classes within Viterbo’s engineering program.”

A program like this not only puts students on a fast track to graduate faster, it also puts them in a better situation financially. College debt makes up the second-largest amount of personal debt in the nation behind only mortgages. Student loans out-pace credit cards and auto loans.

“Many families are struggling to pay for higher education,” Trietley said. “When you can set up a program that allows a student to graduate in three years, that’s obviously a large cost savings.”

President of Aquinas Catholic Schools, Ted Knutson, said students are ready for this program.

“The students are pretty excited about the possibilities,” Knutson said.

Education has always changed, but 2020 reminded leaders of what’s possible in less time.

“COVID and the pandemic has accelerated the need to do things differently,” Knutson said.

A program that could land a student their dream job in 365 fewer days.

“We feel like we have something special,” Trietley said.

Viterbo guarantees students in this program graduate in three years. They are also sharing facilities between the two schools.

If a student has their eyes set on a different school, the credits they earn could transfer to that school. School and university leaders say they hope to expand this program to the other catholic schools in the La Crosse Diocese.

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