Phoenix College: Innovative 90/30 Partnership Enhances Medical Laboratory Science Program

Julie Stiak and Jeff Wolz
Member Spotlight

While programs requiring costly, state-of-the-art science labs were being eliminated during budget cuts around the nation, Phoenix College developed a unique partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) that netted a $100,000 public grant upgrade to its laboratory facilities and increased its ability to encourage student success by offering the opportunity to earn an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) and a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS).

Students complete 90 hours at Phoenix College and 30 through ASU, resulting in significant tuition savings compared to four years at the university. There are no comparable MLS degree offerings anywhere in the country at this program's current tuition level. And, except for nine upper division general education credits that can be taken online, the 30 ASU credits can be completed right on the Phoenix College campus.

To encourage students in various stages of life to stay on track and complete their degrees, the new MLS program features a 16-month programmatic pathway, accelerated BAS option, a hybrid format designed for students who work while going to college, and an AAS degree that allows students to first become technicians and then continue on the Phoenix College-Arizona State University partnership track to pursue their BAS.

Mathew Brand, 39, a former combat medic, says lab work always interested him so he earned a bachelor's degree in Biology. But, while working in the Arizona state pathology lab, he found that what he really needed is a BAS specifically in Medical Laboratory Science. He did a Google search and is now a student in the innovative 90/30 MLS degree program. Students in the first MLS cohort range from their early 20s to a 50-year-old. The gender ratio is nearly 50-50, which bucks the industry trend of nearly 80 percent of the nation's laboratory workforce being female.

"This collaborative degree program is an ideal opportunity for those seeking a meaningful career in the fast-growing medical arena to learn from Phoenix College and ASU's faculty while enjoying the community college's affordable tuition costs and benefits such as free parking, no-fee tutoring, and an arsenal of assistance for student success," says Anna Solley, president of the 92-year-old Phoenix College.

The inaugural cohort began with 18 students in December 2010, and all 18 will graduate with a BAS degree in Medical Laboratory Science. The high retention rate reflects the dedication of students, faculty, and clinical affiliates throughout the region who support the six months of clinical rotations for each student. A few students gained employment while completing the program, which illustrates the benefits of a hybrid program design to enable students to work while earning a college degree. The second cohort began in December 2011 with 18 students, and all students are progressing in the programmatic pathway.

Julie Stiak heads the AAS program at Phoenix College and Jeff Wolz, M.ED directs the ASU BAS program. Both directors work on the Phoenix College campus.

Program co-director Stiak points out, "Phoenix College's many, many decades of partnerships with the health care community afford a wealth of opportunities for students to achieve their required clinical experience while displaying their skills to some top employers. And, students are able to explore various disciplines so they can find their passions for future areas of specialty."

Student persistence is enhanced by the knowledge that medical laboratory scientists and medical laboratory technicians are in demand with a growth rate of 14 percent predicted through 2018, according to U.S. Department of Labor. Careers attract many personalities with jobs ranging from public health disease tracking to running a third-world clinic with the Peace Corps. 

To learn more about PC's Medical Laboratory Science program, which was recognized as the Phoenix College Innovation of the Year for 2012, visit

Contact: Julie Stiak, AAS Program Director, and Jeff Wolz, BAS Program Director