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Graduate commission opposing privatization of NOVA ed program

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 6 - September 29, 1994

At its first meeting of the academic year, the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies (CGSP) passed a motion expressing opposition to the privatization of adult-and-continuing-education offerings because of the potential for negative impact on program quality and integrity, and expressed its view that the adult-and-continuing-education program may be consistent with the university's overall mission.

Last year, Provost Fred Carlisle directed that the College of Education be reduced by 20 percent and focus on K-12. The university commissions have been asked to respond to the college plan for meeting that charge.

Joe Merola, CGSP chair, began the discussion by reading a letter from commission member Larry French, who is interim director of the Northern Virginia Graduate Center where the adult-and-continuing-education program is based. French pointed out that removal of tenure will make it difficult to recruit faculty members to teach the program, and that the program serves diverse populations, including adult students and people of color.

Commission member Bruce Chaloux, former director of the NVGC, expressed concern that the bottom line will become "find students." He said that from a numerical point of view, adult and continuing education is a viable program around the state, not just in northern Virginia.

Len Peters, dean of the Graduate School, said the move to privatize came about because adult and continuing education is outside of the K-12 focus but within the NVGC mission to serve mid-career professionals, "a clientele in northern Virginia that probably doesn't exist in Blacksburg." He said the word privatization was not used in early discussion. "We looked at how the program could be self-supporting. It was suggested that it be moved within the Graduate School. I did not decline, but said I preferred to keep it in an academic unit."

Ron Johnson asked if the options are to privatize or lose the program. Peters said his understanding is there is some flexibility in defining privatization.

John Eaton reported that other institutions suggested taking the program's employees on as contract employees. "Others will take on the program if we close it; the market will be served."

"I can't believe `detenured' faculty members will stay around," Steve Boyle said.

"There should be incentive to faculty members to make money," Johnson said. Peters said there is profit sharing.

"Won't that drive up tuition and drive us out of the market?" asked Martha Johnson.

Michael Vorster asked if a private program can award a degree. Peters said it would still be a Virginia Tech degree. "Are the faculty members university employees? Will this be a not-for-profit educational institute?" Vorster asked. Peters said the details had not been addressed.

"Maybe they will be like the Center for Public Choice--able to just move," Eaton said.

What about SCHEV and accreditation? Vorster asked. "This commission would still look at courses and approve," said Merola.

Chaloux asked, "Are we going to pay extra for faculty members to advise and sit on Ph.D. committees? There are courses outside of education these students have to take."

"Wouldn't it be easier to make an exception to the K-12 focus than to go through these gymnastics?" Ron Johnson asked.

"It would be easier to privatize the accounting rather than the academic program," Vorster said.

"That was the initial discussion--to simply shelter income and demonstrate that the program was self-supporting," Peters said. "Higher education is going to be faced with a lot of these questions over the next decade, so we should face them."

Chaloux suggested discussing the importance of the program itself. "This has been a viable program....We've served that market well....The immediate issue is whether this should continue as a part of our program mix."

Peters said, "The provost is trying to bring focus to the College of Education. Colleges of education across the country are being told to focus on K-12. The provost never looked at the issue of demand or intended to look at the issue of demand. He did what he was suppose to do--focused on programming."

Merola added, "Privatization came from the college."

Mullins said there is a concern about jeopardizing the quality of the programs offered at the extended campuses.

Peters said, "The focus we have in Blacksburg doesn't have to be the focus we have throughout the rest of the state."

"But there still needs to be a link to campus to maintain the quality and viability of degrees," Chaloux said.

Martha Johnson said the adult-and-continuing education program "has developed and blossomed" as a result of basing it at the NVGC in 1985, and said that it fulfills a university mission to meet Virginian's educational needs.

Merola agreed with Chaloux that the issue is, "Is this a program we should have; if so, is (privatization) a proper vehicle?"

Vorster asked if the college can meet the $1.6-million target for cuts without cutting the adult and continuing education program. Boyle said the college is ahead of schedule.

The motion passed unanimously. Merola will take it to the University Advisory Council on Strategic Budget and Planning, which originally asked for commission review.