Otterbein University leaders are hoping a new partnership with Columbus State Community College can help prospective students with the cost of education.

The university announced a partnership in early April that will allow students to earn an associate degree and a bachelor's degree in four years with a dual-admission program.

The program features shared academic advising and connects with student services on both campuses.

Otterbein President Kathy Krendl called the program a "unified student experience."

Jefferson Blackburn Smith, Otterbein's vice president for enrollment, said in a release that the program aims to keep costs affordable for students while also integrating the processes at both schools.

"This program addresses the other issues, as well as simplifying the transfer process itself," Smith said. "Students in the program don't need to apply to transfer to Otterbein once they earn their associate degree. They will already be Otterbein students."

Along with the partnership, Otterbein also is creating a reduced tuition rate for students who earn an associate degree and have a 2.75 grade-point average.

The four-year cost of the program, based on current tuition costs that include books, is $43,188. Neither school has raised tuition in at least four years.

Rebecca Butler, vice president of enrollment management and student services at Columbus State, said in the release that college costs have become a "limiting factor" for many would-be students.

"This partnership offers a tremendous opportunity for students to earn two meaningful degrees without incurring deep loan debt," she said.

Another perk of the program is that participants will not need to complete a transfer application to Otterbein if they initiate and complete the program at Columbus State.

To date, the program covers business, communication, education, engineering and health- and sport-sciences degrees and is expected to expand to include most other academic programs in future.

Students using the program will be considered nonresidential, and will live at home while having access to resources at both campuses.

The program begins this fall.