Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Needed: The California Completion Coalition. Private for-profit and non-profits commit to serve un-served California learners.

In a column published in Monday's Sacramento Bee, William Tierney had an interesting "big idea" and several recommendations to make it a reality. The big idea? That private non-profit and for-profit institutions band together to serve Californians who are shut out of the California State University and community colleges because of budget cuts and enrollment caps.
Tierney's larger point is that California will suffer possibly irreparable economic and demographic damage downstream if a generation of learners are denied access to post-secondary education over the next several years. And he notes that there is significant capacity in the private higher education sector to meet the needs that are currently unmet.
This is a challenge that should not and cannot go unmet. If we are able to put some of our petty practices aside in service towards a larger good, it would be a red letter day for American higher education.
Tierney's proposals to move towards a more comprehensive, effective, and efficient coalition to meet the outstanding need include 1. a common course numbering system to eliminate the insidious practice of reducing credit awards when learners move between institutions and 2. Allowing new models, like KNEXT, Kaplan University, or Western Governor's University into the state with state endorsement and aid support.
I would like to add an idea that would catalyze Tierney's proposal into action: the California Completion Coalition (CCC). The CCC would welcome as members all regionally accredited institutions that agreed to honor all credits earned at other regionally accredited institutions, including general education and elective credits, up to their current transfer limits. Participating institutions would agree to be transparent to the learners about credit recognition, and remaining time and cost to the degree on their institutional websites. By simply committing to those terms of engagement, the door would be open for an "access and completion" website listing all participating institutions for learners' information.
Using this approach, un-served learners would know what institutions and programs are available and where and how they would be delivered, as well as transfer transparency and time and cost to the attainment of whatever the students' goals are. Let's build this idea real time and, in so doing, break new ground educationally, while using the web to help solve the crisis that is coming.         


  1. The idea deserves to be seriously considered. With the CA budget mess, we need creative ideas that will allow the next generation to get the educational opportunities the need.

  2. I'm concerned that this approach perpetuates a flaw in the credit system. That is, that courses are like marbles. If you get the right number and they are the right color, you've achieved the dream. I tend to think of courses as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. That when they are put together they form a picture greater than the sum of the parts. Each of the jigsaw pieces have unique shapes and fit others in a unique pattern determined by the institutions definition of degree outcomes. And that each institution has a unique definition of what it means to be a graduate of their institution. In my view, courses pieces are not easily interchanged. "Substitutions" from other institutions need to be closely evaluated by the academic side (as opposed to degree audit) to ensure that they meet both course and institution degree outcomes.

  3. Since I've left Kaplan I've been consulting at Nova Southeastern. The cultural difference between the two is, to say the least, striking. I would think ultimately that to solve the educational crisis in the United States, and to bring education to those outside the country who long for it, your dream will need to become reality, but bridging the gap in how the two think goes way beyond accreditation.

    There needs to be a solid perception among students, educators and employers that Kaplan, Phoenix, et al offer an education that is every bit as effective in getting the graduate a job and carries similar prestige on their resume as they would get from a not-for-profit. Unfortunately, that's a long way from the current reality.

    Your suggestion would be a good first step in this direction and to start the momentum towards the goal that you envision, but I suspect it will be difficult to implement. But then, great things are rarely easy to attain!