Not-for-profit higher education institutions have the reputation of being slow to change; unresponsive to market demand; and unimaginative with respect to delivery modes. This is beginning to change, however, and one is starting to see more interest in approaches that differ from the standard 12-15 credits, semester-based, course delivery method.
While this change is positive in many ways, it is important for the entrepreneurial minds developing new approaches to remember that federal financial aid regulations, and most higher education software systems, in many ways are still driven by traditional delivery modes. Consequently, it can be very difficult to ensure compliance with federal regulations when providing financial aid to students in programs with alternative delivery modes (e.g., accelerated, cohort-based, off-site, study abroad, non-standard term, etc.), particularly in an environment that is still predominately classroom and semester based. For example, some aid offices find themselves trying to manage a very large number of payment terms for programs that have start and end dates that are just a few days outside of the standard term. In short, we call this “Entrepreneurship Run Amok”.
Interestingly, for profit institutions have taken a structured approach to offering flexible, market sensitive delivery modes. In short, their “alternative approaches” are consistent, although they may be different from a standard semester approach.
Bottom line, when designing a new delivery approach to meet market demands, the implications for delivering administrative services must be considered. Otherwise, service can deteriorate, additional staff may be necessary, or compliance with regulations may be compromised. Ideally, faculty would meet with IT and financial aid representatives before settling on the parameters of the new program to ensure that it will be as straightforward to administer as possible.
What processes for establishing the parameters for new programs or delivery modes exist on your campus?
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About the author: Kathy Kurz retired after 18 years as Vice President of Scannell & Kurz. Her area of expertise is developing strategic financial aid and retention programs designed to enhance enrollment and net tuition revenue results. She previously served as Associate Vice President at the University of Rochester and Director of Financial Aid at Earlham College.
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