NEWS & DOCUMENTARIES | HERE AND NOW TRANSCRIPT

Adam Schrager:

The University of Wisconsin system is poised this fall to pioneer a program designed to get working adults their college degrees. It's estimated that currently 700,000, or one in every five adults in Wisconsin, have some college credit but has never finished their studies.

 

Kevin Reilly:

The working adult students, the military veterans, are people we ought to be serving in the great public University of Wisconsin system. These are tax-paying, hard-working adult Wisconsin citizens. So I think-- I think in the University of Wisconsin we have a mission-driven, moral obligation to serve those people. And we now will have an opportunity to do that in a much more thorough way.

 

Adam Schrager:

Joining us now to discuss the details of the proposal is the chancellor of the UW-Colleges and Extension Ray Cross, who's in charge of implementing what's called the flexible degree program and in Kenosha at Gateway Technical College we're joined from the chancellor by UW-Parkside Debbie Ford. Thank you both so much for being with us.

Ray Cross:

Nice to be here.

 

Debbie Ford:

Good morning.

 

Adam Schrager:

Chancellor Cross, let me start with you. Looking at the big picture, I know there are a number of things that still need to be worked out, but how do you envision this working?

 

Ray Cross:

Well, ideally we hope to build an assessment model that will allow us to evaluate competencies. And when I use the word competency, what I mean by that is, we are evaluating knowledge, what a person knows, what a person can do or perform and how well they can perform it or how well they know it. That's embedded in that term 'competency'. So the first thing we have to do is identify the competencies necessary for a particular subject and an entire program and how that subject area fits into that program. Once those competencies have been identified by UW faculty from all over, from different programs, from all 26 campuses, and in particular some from Deb Ford's operation at UW-Parkside, what we hope to be able to do then is work with those faculty to create an assessment model for how we evaluate those competencies, both in terms of knowledge and performance. And once those assessment models are created, then we are going to ask faculty to evaluate what's available free, online in terms of available video clips from lectures, from open-- massively open online courses. Those have been growing by leaps and bounds. Probably there's over 1,000 of them now. From a multitude of subject areas. And then the evaluation of those products will be compared to the competencies we've created or identified over here, how well does that particular open course suit, match, those competencies.

 

Adam Schrager:

Chancellor Ford, as you just hear, Chancellor Cross, this does need the buy in of the campuses, I guess.  What are you hearing on your campus about this program?

 

Debbie Ford:

Well, Adam first of all, thank you for allowing me to be part of this discussion as we explore degree alternatives for, particularly adults students across the state of Wisconsin. On our campus we will have Chancellor Cross and his colleagues visit next week to learn more about this new, exciting model, and 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.

 

Adam Schrager:

Chancellor Ford, what have you heard in your travels, in your area there, to indicate to you that this program would be a success?

 

Debbie Ford:

Well, first of all, I think we have to understand that there is a need to serve adults, particularly adults who are actively in the workforce and may have some college and have decided they want to go back to school and want to avail themselves of the great quality of the University of Wisconsin system. And one of the things we also know here in southeastern Wisconsin is we lag just a little bit behind the percentage of degree holders. So about 38 percent of our residents in Wisconsin have a degree and about 35 percent here in Kenosha and 33 percent here in Racine. And employers and faculty and staff tell me that this is an opportunity that we want to be a part of to be able to continue to be of excellent service.

 

Adam Schrager:

Chancellor Cross, you told me since this announcement came out you had been hearing emails, calls, from people who want to take part in this?

 

Ray Cross:

Yes. I've been receiving a number of emails and a number of calls, conversations when we were on the tour, we heard from a number of folks who said, boy, we'd really like to take advantage of this. And I think it's really important, Adam,  to articulate a little bit about what Chancellor Ford just commented on. There are roughly 700,000, maybe even as high as a million people in the state of Wisconsin that have some college that do not have a degree. Our goal is to increase the number of those folks with a degree, help them complete that degree. This process, this particular model, is designed to be flexible, so it can fit into their work style with modules and things of that nature, but it's also important that it is an University of Wisconsin degree. Therefore, the 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. That's very-- I'm actually pleased with that. They should be skeptical. We got to make sure we can do this right and they are the guardians of the quality of this program and that's why their engagement, their efforts to make sure we're doing this well, are so important.

 

Adam Schrager:

Chancellor Ford, I have about a minute left. I wanted to ask you. You heard Chancellor Cross talk about how this is a University of Wisconsin degree. Does it in any way in your mind, your view, cheapen the traditional degree as it's been defined for so many years?  

 

Debbie Ford:

Oh, of course not. I think this is an opportunity for us to make sure that there's high quality in the delivery of alternative degree programs, and, 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 here in the University of Wisconsin and at UW-Parkside.

 

Adam Schrager:

UW-Parkside chancellor Debbie Ford, UW Colleges and Extension chancellor Ray Cross, I know the goal is try and have a couple programs online by this fall, correct?

 

Ray Cross:

Well, have a couple courses. The program will take much longer, but we have a couple of courses that are pretty close.

Adam Schrager:

We thank you both so much for joining us.

 

Ray Cross:

Thank you, Adam.

 

Debbie Ford:

Thank you.

Here and Now
 

UW-System Chancellors discuss new flexible degree program
Friday, June 22, 2012

Watch video

UW Colleges and Extension Chancellor Ray Cross and UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford discuss a new initiative designed to get diplomas in the hands of more working adults at a fraction of the cost and time.


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