When University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly met recently with the UW-Parkside College of Business, Economics, and Computing advisory board, he wanted to hear from business and community leaders gathered in the Alumni Room of the Student Center about how they would approach creating, operating, and marketing the university system's proposed Flexible Degree program.
Dr. Reilly said a survey done by UW Extension showed some 750,000 Wisconsin residents who had some college credits but no degrees and that 60,000 of them said they would pursue a degree if it didn't require a drastic change in their lifestyle. The growth of "for-profit" colleges, Reilly said, also pointed to the need for flexible degrees.
"There are now 17,000 Wisconsinites enrolled in for-profit colleges," Reilly stated. "And one of the things we know is that they are paying a lot higher tuition at those for-profit colleges for, in some instances, less quality."
Reilly told advisory board members the UW System has "an obligation as Wisconsin's public university system to do a better job of serving those types of students." He added the working adults interested in this type of flexible degree are also likely to stay in Wisconsin upon graduation.
Fred Ebeid, the college's out-going dean who has been named interim provost, asked advisory board members to form small groups and discuss ideas to promote flexible degrees. Notes from the sessions were then collected and Ebeid said Reilly was impressed by the quality of the discussions.
"After he looked through the ideas our advisory board members came up with, President Reilly told me he would recommend many of them be seriously considered for use in the flexible degree program," Ebeid said. "He told me this was a very productive meeting and that the ideas he received were exceptional."
While acknowledging that implementation of the flexible degree program presents what one of his UW System colleagues called "a major, major challenge," President Reilly said he hopes to announce in November 2012 UW System institutions that will be the first to have flexible degree programs.As Reilly said, "I think it's the right thing to do. We have the technology and the knowledge. Nobody can say there's not a need because we have those 17,000 students paying a lot more than they need to."