Monday, February 10, 2014

Keeping Charter Oak at the Leading Edge of Higher Education

[This article originally appeared in the Winter/Spring 2014 edition of Connections, the Charter Oak State College Newsletter]

With the beginning of another new year there are a variety of items I want to share with you. The most important item has to do with the challenges facing the entire higher education landscape. As I have said before, things are getting harder for all of us. There is increasing pressure on colleges to improve our outcomes (both graduation rates and graduate employment), reduce our prices, and increase our enrollments. The world wants us to be faster, cheaper, and better.

As you read this, there are four national conversations that I will be participating in that bear on these demands. In early December, I joined the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s new Commission On Quality Assurance and Alternative Higher Education. My role is to talk about noncollegiate assessments (badges and CCAP). In January I delivered a plenary session at CHEA’s annual conference called Innovation, Disruption and the Status Quo: What Do We Want for Accreditation? My talk was about Education Without College: What Is It? Is It Desirable? Can It Last? I have also been asked to participate in a conversation about the link between college and employers by the Aspen Institute. In early February I will serve on a panel at the EDUCAUSE conference in New Orleans to discuss Strategic Innovation and Institutional Collaboration.

All of these engagements reflect two important themes: Higher Education is undergoing remarkable changes and Charter Oak has experience in those elements that are changing. I have told you that we are working to help the U.S Department of Education re-think its Title IV financial aid regulations, and we have just heard that the department is going to request ideas for experimental sites that can explore those new ideas. Charter Oak has been collaborating with Lumina Foundation and a set of institutions that are interested in competency-based learning to create An Experiment in Hybrid, or Mixed-Modality, Programs Using Competency-Based Education. This work seems to be moving to the next level and we are excited about submitting an application to be an experimental site. If we are selected, our students would be able to use their financial aid for portfolios and tests as well as online courses.

And finally, there is a movement right here in Connecticut around our Go Back to Get Ahead initiative. Board of Regents President Gray is committed to moving this project forward. In early Spring we hope to release letters to 100,000 Connecticut residents with credits from ConnSCU institutions but no credential. Charter Oak will be responsible for moving these students forward toward successful degree completion.

You might ask, what does all this activity have to do with me? Well, it’s all designed to keep Charter Oak at the leading edge of higher education, and in the minds of those who award grants for new initiatives and funding. These efforts are part of our commitment to making college available and affordable to as many adults as possible.

So you can see that there is a great deal of work ahead of us. If we perform as I know we can, you should see us in the news, our student enrollments should increase, and our approach to adult education should gain ground in Connecticut and across the nation. This is the work we were invented to do 40 years ago, and we are thrilled to be asked to do it. I will keep you posted. Please drop me an email anytime, I enjoy hearing from you and sharing your progress with the rest of the staff.

Ed Klonoski, President
Charter Oak State College

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