Ford, Cross discuss flexible degree on public TV
President Kevin Reilly believes the University of Wisconsin System has a "moral obligation" to help working adults complete their degrees. Speaking on Wisconsin Public Television's "Here and Now" program, Reilly endorsed the proposed flexible degree program while Chancellors Debbie Ford and Ray Cross emphasized the importance of faculty participation to make the program successful.
"The working adult students, the military veterans are people we ought to be serving in the great public University of Wisconsin System. These are taxpaying, hard working adult Wisconsin citizens," Reilly said. "In the University of Wisconsin, we have a mission-driven, moral obligation to serve these people and we now will have an opportunity to do that in a much more thorough way."
Before the UW System can serve the estimated 700,000 to 1 million Wisconsin adults with college credits but no degree, UW Extension and Colleges Chancellor Cross said the system and faculty must establish knowledge and performance benchmarks.
"The first thing we have to do is identify the competencies necessary for a particular subject and an entire program," Cross told "Here and Now" reporter Adam Schrager. "Once those competences have been identified, by UW faculty from all...26 campuses and, in particular, some from Debbie Ford's operation at Parkside, what we hope to be able to do is work with those faculty to create an assessment model for how we evaluate those competencies both in terms of knowledge and performance."
Noting the flexible degree program would be especially helpful to working adults in southeastern Wisconsin who lag slightly behind the state average in degree completion, Chancellor Ford said the campus is looking forward to learning more about the flexible degree program.
"We will have Chancellor Cross and his colleagues visit next week to learn more about this new and exciting model," Ford told Schrager. "Our faculty and staff who are available this summer are coming together to talk about how they can be part of creating this new competency-based flexible degree program for adults, particularly in southeastern Wisconsin."
During the seven-minute segment, both Cross and Ford stressed the important role UW faculty members have in shaping the program and making it work for working adults.
"UW faculty have to really embrace this concept and right now there are mixed reviews from the faculty?some are very supportive, some are not. I'm actually pleased with that. They should be skeptical," Cross emphasized. "We have to make sure we do this right and they are the guardians of the quality of this program. That's why their engagement, their efforts to make sure we're doing this well are so important."
Asked by Schrager if the flexible degree "cheapens the tradition degree," Ford said, "This is an opportunity for us to make sure that there is high quality in the delivery of alternative degree programs. Again, the faculty are the stewards of academic quality and they will be involved from the beginning in how we deliver this new flexible online and innovative degree program in the University of Wisconsin System and at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside."The "Here and Now" program aired Friday, June 22 and now available online.