The fall of 2013 is bringing opportunity for students to accelerate into the workforce more rapidly by removing institutional barriers.
Annette Digby, vice president of academic affairs, mentioned three programs that will be six semester programs in the next year. Those include organizational leadership and strategic communication, event planning and an education program that leads to certification at the elementary level.
Digby said six semester programs would require students to enroll in 20 credits per semester. The 18-credit maximum in place this year will be raised to 20 for all students starting in 2013.
Digby said students look for the education where they get the best value of education for their money. They want to get their desired career in a minimal time at a school with “the wonderful reputation Stephens has.”
Mimi Hedges, director of the liberal arts program, said the difficulty with the changes comes down to the fees and how it balances with a person’s time. It is important to measure if the student is fully compensated for their money and if the institution is compensated for the credits that are being generated.
In order to compete with other institutions, Digby said keeping the current funding model would defeat our own purposes. Instead, proposals were made that recommended the same tuition for a three-year program as any three years of schooling. Students who aren’t enrolled in the newly designed three year programs who accelerate and graduate in three years will play the same rate of tuition as a student who deliberately chose to enroll in a three year program.
“It will be touchy at times, but it will have the outcomes that will allow students in three years not only to get a job but be successful in that job,” Digby said.
Digby said the belief is that Stephens can attract prospective students interested in organizational leadership and strategic communication, event planning and education.
“I don’t think (the new structure) in and of itself will get them here, but if someone has an interest in those areas then I fully believe Stephens will be a front runner,” Digby said, “and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Given the opportunity to talk to faculty and deans, Digby said she has seen overwhelming support of the changes for the next school year.
“I am in favor of it with the idea that it’s for electives or activity kinds of credits like choir,” Hedges, said.
Choir is the area Hedges has seen the 18-hour cap hurt the most because there are a lot of students on campus that enjoy that activity, but because it’s outside their major it can’t be taken.
“I just want everyone to be able to come to choir that wants to sing from anywhere on campus,” Cheryl Nichols, music program coordinator, said. “I want it to be a cross section of the Stephens community.”
Nichols said the music departments has been unhappy with the 18-hour maximum because it decreased the number of students in the programs, and classes were smaller or couldn’t run because students had to make other choices.
Raising the cap from 18 credit hours to 20 will help the music program tremendously. Rusty Elder, music department instructor, said when the cap was put in place the music program dropped about a third in attendance.
“For a time we had students that were involved in our music minor program that were so involved that they spent the extra money, they sacrificed and were able to keep the minor,” Elder said. “After that group graduated it was consistently low from that point on.”
According to Elder, students were no longer working toward the minor knowing it would be difficult to complete.
Nichols said increasing the hour cap would help enrollment, and they will continue trying to increase the number of music minors.
“I don’t expect numbers to bounce back immediately because any program has to develop a reputation,” Elder said. “We may have to build up some of that again, but it’s a thrill.”
Nichols believes it will push the theater and dance students to hone all the musical skills they could benefit from once they graduate.
Beth Leonard, dean of school of performing arts, said that previously students were penalized when they reached 18 hours by not being able to take the dance classes they wanted or having to drop out of private voice because they would put them over 18 hours.
“They couldn’t do any of the things that make our program so rich without paying for it,” Leonard said.
Elder said he thinks the new programs and the higher cap is a response to what students need right now.
Elder would love to see performing arts students to branch out more and go outside of dance, theater or music.
“Our program is very strict so with this maybe students can take an extra business course or an extra course anywhere on campus outside of our discipline and broaden their perspectives,” Leonard said.
Leonard said the theater department is interested in broadening perspectives, but with an 18-hour cap it’s really hard for their students to do.
“It should be about you and Stephens is all about the students,” Leonard said. “Our president and administration have demonstrated that time and time again.”