While some students travel hundreds of miles back to school, other students are working toward their degrees right in their backyard. Hundreds of students are preparing to start back to school at the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center on the College of the Canyons Valencia campus. The University Center offers bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and credential programs through accredited universities including University of La Verne, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Bakersfield and Brandman University. According to the center’s website, “Each partner university works with College of the Canyons counselors to ensure the transferability of lower-division coursework.” “I went to COC for three years for my (associate’s) for administration of justice,” said Santa Clarita resident Jesus Martinez. Martinez recently graduated with his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the Brandman University satellite program through the University Center. Working full-time as a cook to put himself through school, he said location and affordability are what drew him to the program. “It all seemed best-suiting to me,” said Martinez. Hundreds of students like Martinez are pursuing four-year degrees at the University Center, which is one of the first of its kind in the country, according to the website. The mission of the center is to provide immediate access to upper-division and graduate-level educational opportunities. Classes are offered online, hybrid or face-to-face depending on the program and partnering university. Due to programs operating as “cohorts,” or clusters, it allows students to start at any time. Anyone interested in more information is invited to an open house at the University Center on Tuesday, Oct 16.