Features & Perspectives

The previous Perspective reported the good news of outstanding new traditional student enrollment, then tempered that encouraging message with the report of a slight decline in the number of returning students. We will now report on enrollment in the Evening, Weekend & Online (EWO) program.

Lakeland was the first college in Wisconsin to recognize the academic work of Wisconsin Technical College system institutions, beginning in 1978. That led to the development of seven baccalaureate degree completion centers across the state, each teaching the liberal arts and business in the evening to working adults. Before long, other private and public universities affirmed the value and appropriateness of Lakeland's actions, then became our competitors in that space. In time, we would add graduate programs and other undergraduate majors, almost always as the first private university to do so. The same was true in Lakeland's invention of BlendEd, symbolizing our leadership in technology as a means of increasing access to learning.

EWO remains a central part of Lakeland's educational mission. It is also a revenue source that is critical to the university's financial health. Five years ago, Lakeland's primary competitors made a change that we chose to not make. They all reduced requirements for distributional courses for working adults, citing research in the field that documented the achievement of general education learning outcomes from intensive integrated courses. The result was that a student could complete degrees at those competitor universities in a shorter time, and thus at a lower cost. Consequently, a Lakeland EWO program that was already declining in size because of an increase in the number of competitors experienced an even steeper decline during the last five years.

In response, Dean Joshua Kutney invited 15 colleagues to spend the summer addressing the vitally important issues of general education and transfer policies for adult learners in EWO. Each of those colleagues had full plates already, but Dr. Kutney's calling of these questions was too timely to be ignored. The result of their work was a policy recommendation that protects the quality of core coursework for adult learners at this arts and science university, but that also ensures that the students can complete the Lakeland degree in the same amount of time that is required by our competitors. We should see the enrollment benefits of the task force's thoughtful work by spring semester.

At the same time that we are attempting to re-establish a competitive position in EWO with the private universities around our centers, we are facing a new "elephant in the room." Beginning this fall, the Badger Promise and similar offers at each regional university in the UW System provides free tuition for first generation (3.0 gpa) students transferring from technical colleges. The free tuition is for their first (junior) year at UW with the second-year tuition set at approximately $4800. Needless to say, Lakeland felt the effects of the UW Promise this fall and is hard at work defining new ways for EWO to enroll significant numbers of students.

Shortfalls in EWO this fall and anticipated lower-than-budgeted spring numbers require a university budget reduction of 3.3% for the 2018-19 year. We will complete those cuts by the end of this week, then we will intensify efforts to reverse the declines in EWO. Two early strategies will include (1) adding daytime classes at our centers and (2) establishing the Center for Advanced Disciplinary Studies (CADS). The daytime offerings will respond to the fact that 90% of Tech College associate degree students take their classes during the day. The CADS is a response to the HLC mandate that all dual credit (CAPP) teachers in high school must have a master's degree and a minimum of 18 graduate hours in the content discipline they are teaching if the courses are to yield college credit.

Dr. Mehraban Khodavandi, who founded Lakeland's first graduate school during the early 90s, has accepted the university's invitation to establish and lead the new Center for Advanced Disciplinary Studies. He has already secured funding from one grant source to imitate the effort. He will soon contact faculty colleagues about developing the requested content courses. The center will be located within EWO and will report to my office as one of several new initiatives. We are grateful to Mehraban to delaying Arizona and rising to this new challenge. As he did when founding the graduate school, he is taking on this major project while continuing to teach.

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