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Fresno Pacific opens doors in Merced
fresno pacific pic
Fresno Pacific Merced Center Director Cynthia Kaitfors discusses home work with student Christina Perez. The new campus has accelerated degree completions programs in child development, liberal arts and business with a emphasis in organizational leadership. The campus is expected to draw students from Merced, Northern Merced County and Turlock. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Valley residents who seek higher education now have another option in the growing list of opportunities in the area.

Fresno Pacific University, a private, Christian institution, has established a satellite campus in Merced that currently offers an accelerated, 18-month degree completion program in childhood development. Major offerings will expand in February and March to include liberal arts and business with an emphasis in organizational leadership.

Enrolled students are only required to attend class one night a week from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., making an ideal schedule for working adults.

The campus has been open for about three months and Director Cynthia Kaitfors said interest is growing.

“As an educational institution we have done research and we have seen that there is a need here in Merced for adult learners. We are here to fill that need, not only for Merced, but for outlaying areas like Chowchilla, Atwater, Livingston, Delhi and Turlock,” she said.

Students at the Merced Center praised the amount of flexibility that the adult completion program affords them.

“I love the flexibility. A lot of us come straight here from work and it’s great that it is only one night a week — especially if you have children and other responsibilities,” said Christina Perez, a childhood development major.

Classes are held one night a week but the learning goes on everyday via online “forums” between students and faculty.

Perez said that another draw for the Merced Center is the close-knit, family atmosphere between students and faculty. Students in a particular major enroll in their classes and remain together from the beginning of their curriculum to the end.

“We are all together and we develop partnerships and friendships with each other, we get really close like a family,” she said. “And the faculty are very willing to help us and they are very understanding of our needs as adults.”

Since the Merced Center is geared for adult learners those interested in the program must meet certain requirements. There are age requirements for all three individual programs — a student must be out of high school for periods of time ranging from two years to seven years — depending on the major they wish to pursue.

“The curriculum is fast-paced and intense, you have to have a higher level of maturity to be able to handle it. This is for people who really want to bear down and earn their degree in a short amount of time,” said Kaitfors.

Since the programs are degree completion, students must have completed 60 undergrad level units with a 2.4 grade point average or higher. However, Kaitfors noted that there are exceptions. She said students who have less than 60 units can complete their general education through online classes and if a student has less than a 2.4 GPA they can petition for a waiver for acceptance into the program and take a college readiness and organization class before beginning their regular general education or major area of study curriculum.

Currently the center has 39 students, but by the end of 2012 Kaitfors said enrollment could reach as much as 320 students. Kaitfors said plans include graduate-level classes and credential classes for students who are pursuing a teaching career.

To find out more about the Merced Center visit or call 354-5900.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.