CCE program cuts leave students looking elsewhere

Liz Kohman

John Konopa thought the College of Continuing Education would act as a portal to other classes at the University when he began his studies in 1998.

Konopa – who works full time at General Mills and returned to college to earn a mechanical engineering degree – falls under the definition of people CCE wants to reach.

The college’s mission “is to provide high-quality continuing education and lifelong learning opportunities for professional development, personal enrichment, career transitions and academic growth.”

But the college couldn’t help him. Instead, he found he had to get his degree through the Institute of Technology.

Like other universities nationwide, CCE has had budget shortfalls.

Lowered state support coupled with the University’s new accounting system – Incentives for Managed Growth – prompted CCE to reassess its mission.

As a result the college has pared down its scope dramatically since 1999, leaving students like Konopa to find classes that fit their schedules without the convenience and help of CCE services.

“With new factors, CCE needed to refocus its mission and reinvigorate its mission,” said CCE Dean Mary Nichols.

The college offers professional certificate programs, distance learning and non-credit coursework. While CCE is still involved in degree and credit programs, the college is focusing on attracting non-admitted students who are not seeking a degree.

CCE is in the business of providing access, not offering degrees, Nichols said. Students interested in pursuing degrees need to go through individual collegiate offices, she said.

But prior to IMG colleges offering classes for nontraditional students formed partnerships with CCE. The partnership allowed CCE to promote the other college’s classes, and both benefited from the agreement through tuition revenues.

When IMG was implemented, the CCE was unable to continue offering these classes because if the class was profitable, the original college offered it. If it wasn’t profitable, it didn’t make sense for the University to offer it.

IMG put the responsibility for generating tuition on individual colleges regardless of when the courses began, said Lincoln Kallsen, University director of budget and financial planning.

Kallsen said the University changed the system because “we thought colleges could do it better. The jury is still out on whether it is better.”

“CCE continues to be a strong, viable, important college. We just shuffled the revenue streams around,” Kallsen said.

But Konopa said he questions the University’s support for the
nontraditional student.

“It’s hard to figure out where they sit or what their purpose is,” Konopa said.

Robert Bruininks, University vice president and provost, said CCE still completes its primary responsibility of helping students gain access to University classes. He said other colleges have assumed the tasks CCE no longer performs.

“I think the College of Continuing Education has done an outstanding job,” Bruininks said.

CCE offers fewer courses than it did prior to the implementation of IMG, Nichols said, but it’s impossible to know if the colleges continue to offer CCE’s promoted courses.

Peter Zetterberg, director of the University’s Institutional Research & Reporting, said there is no way to compare course offerings before and after IMG implementation. Comparing the number of students is also impossible because of changes made to CCE’s registration system.

The college has experienced an income loss since 1998, but administrators predict growth over the next few years.

In 1998 CCE’s income was $35,000, and in 2000, it was almost $25,000. By 2007, the college projects an income growth of more than $40,000, largely based on non-credit course income such as personal enrichment classes.

Nichols became CCE dean last fall after working as a professor in the Carlson School of Management and serving as a consultant to the college during its efforts to redefine its mission.

She said her plans for the college’s future include “continuing to work aggressively in developing partnerships and organizing to make resources accessible to people who want to learn throughout a lifetime.”

Liz Kohman welcomes comments at [email protected]