Regional campuses keep hold on degree proposal to ease education completion

Morgan Day

More than a half million residents in the 12-county area served by Kent State’s regional campuses have incomplete degrees. The university is still trying to come up with a way to help them stay the course and complete their education.

But how and when have been put on hold following a recent Educational Policies Council vote – at least until regional campus officials can fashion another plan that better suits other university officials.

Shirley Barton, executive dean for regional campuses, said the Bachelor of Professional Studies, or completion degree for those students, isn’t “dead.”

“We are considering the feedback that was given to us at the (EPC) meeting,” she said. “There are conversations going on among administrators and faculty at this point in time to determine what next steps there might be.”

Trumbull campus Dean Wanda Thomas supports the degree. For the past few months, she has been serving on a committee appointed by Gov. Bob Taft to look at higher education in Ohio. The committee makes recommendations on how to better align the needs of Ohio adults so they can go on to higher education.

“A completion degree would be an opportunity to stay on the campus and receive a degree that is very aligned to whatever their career path is,” she said.

Certain career paths are not defined, she said, and many jobs don’t require a specific degree.

Barton said one of the concerns raised about the degree is that it doesn’t fit into any of the existing colleges because it’s a multi-disciplinary, multi-college degree. Regional campuses would act as their own college if the university adopts the degree, but this doesn’t go against university policy, she said.

Another concern is the impact the professional studies degree might have on other degrees — such as the Bachelor of General Studies, recently enacted in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the 2+2 Bachelor of Science in the College of Technology.

The Bachelor of General Studies, for instance, requires students to design their own degrees. As a result, those students might not “encompass the skill-sets and knowledge that employers are looking for,” she said.

The Bachelor of Professional Studies, on the other hand, is based on competencies identified by a focus group of employers and a focus group of students over age 25, she said.

Students often have to wait to take courses for the general studies degree because it’s an “a la carte” program, or students choose which classes to take at what time. With the Bachelor of Professional Studies, the university intends to offer a set list of courses that students can take in different modalities, like online or face-to-face, or in eight- to 16-week sessions, Barton said.

Also, associate degrees are 30-36 technical hours, but only 24 of those hours can be used toward the new degree, leaving six to 12 credit hours left wandering on a student’s transcript.

David England, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services, said there were concerns about the degree’s introduction, capstone courses and academic nature and focus. He said some of the issues contained in the degree need to be addressed individually or more fully.

“(EPC members) were asked to consider everything at once,” he said. “All I know is my vote. I think if the issues could’ve been separate, the outcome might have been different.”

England said he, along with a few others who voted against the degree, supports the general concept of it. He said it is important for the regional campuses and for the university and is encouraged by signs that this is not a dead issue.

Thomas said the issue doesn’t just concern Kent State — it’s state-wide.

“If we don’t have opportunities for these people to get their degrees, Ohio will continue to suffer,” she said.

Barton said the regional campuses are a minority element within the university.

“We can’t pass anything by ourselves,” she said. “We need the support of our Kent campus colleagues to make this happen. We will continue to talk with them and to try to enlist their support.”

Contact regional south campuses reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].