Kansas university stirs debate over outsourced classes
Just how much can a college outsource and still be a college? The question is no longer just academic at Fort Hays State University in Kansas.The reaction on campus is as you would expect - even a student-created Facebook protest group:
Under a novel arrangement, the school will accept credits from a private company that runs introductory courses in subjects like economics and English composition - listing them on transcripts under the Fort Hays State name.
The company working with Fort Hays State, StraighterLine, runs its own courses, which are designed by experts but aren't led by a professor. Nonetheless, the credits earned would be indistinguishable from those taught by professors at Fort Hays State.
To some on campus, that sounds like a restaurant ordering takeout from a rival and serving it up as home cooking.Rome further:
"It could really damage our academic reputation," said Topher Rome, a graduate student who helped start a Facebook group with 147 members opposing the arrangement.
compares StraighterLine's arrangement with FHSU to "money-laundering but with credit" - essentially borrowing the university's own accreditation to give its courses legitimacy.Why is the university doing this?
... the public university notes the arrangement isn't for current students there - it's mostly a recruiting tool. Fort Hays State hopes to drum up business amid declining state funding and a dwindling local population, encouraging those who sign up for the online courses to continue their education through the university.Has the outsourcing help improvement recruitment? Not yet:
Fort Hays' financial goal is recruiting more students. State funding covers about half the portion of the budget it once did, Provost Larry Gould said, and the area's population has been declining for more than a century. It's responded with a huge online program that enrolls more students off-campus (6,800) than there are on-campus (4,500).
Gould acknowledged some faculty are worried but says they shouldn't be. Once students transfer into FHSU, all courses would be taught by university faculty; if more transfer in, there's more work.
So far, Fort Hays has credentialed coursework for about 64 StraighterLine students since the agreement with the school in May 2008, but so far none have formally transferred into the university.So what's really behind this? Why would a university outsource classes, risking the outrage of faculty and students and raising questions of quality and credentialing. The R-word - revenue!
"Our first job is to provide education services to the citizens of western Kansas," Gould said, but the university can't do that without generating new revenues.