WVU to allow frequent flier miles to count toward degree credits

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University officials today unveiled an innovative new program that allows students to use real-life experience, frequent flyer miles and Giant Eagle fuel perks as credits toward graduate degrees in business, education and pharmacy

“Grad-Points Plus,” a joint effort by the university and various businesses, will allow mid-career professionals “the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the school of hard-knocks in the school of hardly knocking,” according to school president Michael Garrison.

Garrison said the program is a previously unpublicized recommendation from a recent in-house investigation into a master’s degree that was awarded, then rescinded, then awarded then rescinded to an area pharmaceutical executive.

“We sat around thinking about all the other sorts of credits and points someone picks up in a long career and one of our sociology professors did some sort of algorithm or whatever those people do and figured that a certain number of frequent flyer miles probably has a lot of educational kinds of experiences attached to it and we figured, ‘hey – why just leave those things lying around? Especially the ones with USAirways, which aren’t good for much – certainly not, like, booking a flight, and believe me I’ve tried. So we started thinking about ways to connect them with learning,” said Garrison.

“And believe me, at WVU, we’ve found ways to connect things with learning that haven’t occurred to people at any other school I can think of.”

A prospectus for the course shows that various miles will be applicable in different ways, depending upon the learning experience likely to be reflected. Overseas miles will be good for one credit in 1,500 mile increments for degrees in business and pharmacy, while miles for domestic travel can be applied in lesser amounts.

“Let’s suppose you flew from Pittsburgh to Seattle. Clearly that would suggest a few credits in computer science,” said Garrison. “Or a flight to Toronto or Montreal. Those could count toward U.S. Geography, right?”

Garrison said the school will draw that line at in-state travel and short-hops and will limit all travel to and from Las Vegas to its statistics and mathematics courses.

The fuel perks feature will include a unique “reverse perks” clause that allows students to include grocery purchases toward sociology degrees.

“I’ve been to the supermarket. I was there just last month, with my wife, and I noticed how many people talk about their troubles there,” Garrison said. “This is a no-brainer for sociology.”