Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Silk Degrees

From yesterday's (11/24/08) Everett Herald comes an article on the expansion of degree offerings from other universities as the UW branch campus idea dies a quick, painful death as a result of the State's budget shortfall.
As the campaign to bring a University of Washington campus to Snohomish County stalls, the state's other public universities are quietly expanding bachelor's and master's degree programs in the Everett area.
Quietly expanding? Really? Too bad Herald reporters don't read the ads in the Herald 'cause if they did they would know that the schools had been paying a lot of money to make the expansion of the programs broadly known. It's also too bad that Herald reporters don't read Herald letters to the editors 'cause if they did they would have seen a letter from me on 3/14/08 highlighting those same degree programs (you can also find the text of that letter here). I would argue that had the Herald not abandoned all journalistic integrity to become the primary cheerleader for the UW branch campus, the expansion of these programs would have been anything but quiet.

From my perspective as a lowly taxpayer these programs are a bargain because the deliver education to under-served populations, often in under-served areas, with significantly less infrastructure and administrative costs. A UW North Sound, for instance, will take the better part of a billion dollars and years of construction before we graduated anyone. These alternative from existing universities go up much faster (although they are still too slow to respond).

Take the Central Washington University (CWU) information technology and administrative management (ITAM) degree, mentioned in the article. You may recall that I blogged about the local version, a bachelor's of applied science ITAM (BAS-ITAM), last spring. The Herald article doesn't fully describe the value of the program. Yes it offers an IT bachelor's degree locally, but more important, it offers it in multiple locations and to a different student base. The program is taught simultaneously through distance learning technologies at Edmonds CC, Highline CC and now Everett CC. (Below is picture of the lecturer's workstation at Highline. The small screens let the lecturer see the classroom and students at the other locations.)

Lecturer Workstation

In addition, the program is targeted at a different audience than the Ellensburg-based ITAM degree. The BAS-ITAM is a two-year program for students that have completed an IT program at a community college and have at least a year of work experience (hence the "applied" part of the name). I won't cover the same ground covered in the earlier post, but one point bears repeating. Most community college IT programs are Prof/Tech and their credits do not transfer to any bachelor's programs (they are referred to as terminal degrees). Without the BAS-ITAM these students would have to start over again as freshman, spending time and money on areas of study where they already have the requisite knowledge. And, since the tuition is subsidized by the State, the program saves the taxpayers two years of tuition subsidy.

Also worth noting is that June 2008 saw the first set of graduates from the Edmonds and Highline locations. So CWU isn't really "testing the waters in Everett" as the article states.

For more ranting on what's wrong with a UW branch campus see my No Sno U blog.

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