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EKU Aviation Program to be offered at Southeast in Middlesboro

EKU and SKCTC representatives pose with the EKU twin engine Seneca

Chris Jones, SKCTC Director of Public Relations

Students from Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College will soon enjoy the opportunity to take flight and soar…

This will be possible when they enroll in the Aviation: Aerospace Technology program offered by Eastern Kentucky University. The much regarded program will allow local students to earn their Associate’s Degree with all course work offered at the Middlesboro campus. Upon completion of the degree, students will then pursue a Bachelor’s Degree at the EKU main campus in Richmond.

This became a reality with the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the two intuitions as SKCTC President Dr. Lynn Moore and EKU President Michael Benson signed the agreement during a ceremony and news conference held recently at the Middlesboro campus. The memorandum of understanding between both institutions validates the transfer of college credits for local students completing their Associate of Arts Degree into EKU’s Bachelor Degree Aviation-Aerospace Technology concentration. In addition to the course-by-course transfer of AA credits, the agreement also allows SKCTC students to complete many EKU-specific lower division courses at the Middlesboro campus. Thus, the agreement is a 2.5 + 1.5 versus the traditional community college/university 2+2 agreement. The final 42 EKU-only credits will be completed online or at the Richmond campus, explained Ralph Gibbs, director of aviation and chief flight instructor for the program.

A third partner in the newly forged relationship is the Middlesboro-Bell County Airport and its board of directors. All Southeast student flight training will be conducted at the airport that is conveniently situated adjacent to the community college. The Eastern Aviation: Aerospace Technology degree pathway has 25 semester hours of any aviation technical electives. Thus, all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)certificates earned at the Middlesboro airport will be accepted by EKU through the credit-by-examination process to satisfy this academic requirement.

Once completed, Southeast students will have earned their Associate’s Degree, all their FAA certificates, private through multi-engine instructor and their Bachelor’s Degree. “Even more significantly, local students can enter the program in Middlesboro and stay close to home until they are ready to accept their first flying job with their BA Degree,” said Gibbs.  

There is much optimism displayed by those at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College as the EKU program moves into the area. “We are delighted about having the program from Eastern come to Southeast and to Middlesboro,” noted President Moore. “The curriculum is cutting edge and innovative, and we look forward to growing the program and working with EKU to make the Aviation: Aerospace Technology Program a tremendous success. The program is certain to attract many students while preparing each for an exciting career --  one of inspiring and well-paying job opportunities that will serve them well as they move forward into the 21st Century.”

The program being led by Professor Gibbs, a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot, “Is an exceptional opportunity for students,” Moore noted.

Gibbs mentioned the program is “distinctive and groundbreaking” and is the first of many anticipated partnerships between Eastern and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.  He predicts tremendous growth in the industry. “The forecast need for professional pilots over the next 20 years is 498,000. And, to meet that extraordinary industry demand, it is my goal to synergistically align EKU Aviation with as many KCTCS colleges as possible.  The demand is so large, that doing so will barely make a dent in the overall demand,” he said.  

According to Gibbs, Eastern has maintained a pro-flight degree program for 25 years, but the Associate’s Degree component was created a year ago and the first online courses in the AT degree discipline were rolled out in August.

Prospective students wising to enroll in the program should contact the Office of Admissions at any of the SKCTC five campuses spread over Harlan, Bell and Letcher counties. “For the first two years of the four-year pathway, all academic and flight activity will take place at one of the SKCTC campus sites and at the Middlesboro airport, he said. “I will be working closely with Southeast advisers and the Middlesboro airport staff to develop a four-year advising guide to lead interested students down our yellow brick road to a career as a professional pilot.”

Enrollment levels in the EKU program have quadrupled over the past three years and now the opportunity to be a professional pilot is being made available to students at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College.

“Flying is the ultimate rush,” exclaimed Gibbs. “We are eager to get the program at SKCTC up and running. Sensational times are ahead!”  

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Published on September 25, 2014

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