Could “Course Sharing” Help HBCUs and Other Minority-Serving Colleges Get More Students?

Seven predominantly black colleges and universities are betting that “course sharing” will help more students graduate on time.

Under a new arrangement, students at one of the institutions will be able to take online courses offered by the others.

The hope is that offering more courses to students will ease their path to graduation. Don’t worry if the accounting course you need for your major runs out of places, isn’t offered until the following semester, or conflicts with your work schedule – there might be a course split which meets the requirement.

“It was about retention, persistence, getting students across the finish line for completion,” said Jamila S. Lyn, director of specialty programming at Benedict College, South Carolina. “We see this potentially helping student-parents. We see this potentially helping working students. We see this as an aid to students who cannot come to campus due to a health issue, who have approval for virtual classes. »

Many historically black colleges have low graduation rates, which higher education experts attribute to the fact that they are under-resourced and tend to serve low-income, first-generation students without financial safety nets. Students might have to work part-time to pay tuition, or they might have to drop out for a semester or two if they can’t afford to enroll, making it more difficult to get a degree in four to six years.

Course sharing, campus officials said, can give these students more options to stay on the right academic path — and could even help some students graduate faster, saving them money. ‘money.

Roslyn Clark Artis, president of Benedict, came up with the idea of ​​course sharing and pitched it to the Southern Regional Education Board, a nonprofit that grew out of an interstate higher education pact and now leads efforts to diversify the faculty, among others. . Since January 2020, Benoît has been participating in lesson sharing with non-HBCUs through an online platform called Acadeum.

Benedict’s students have done well, Lyn said: 82% of them passed their courseshare courses, despite the pandemic and even though students from underrepresented minorities are less likely to succeed with learning in line.

Colleges participating in the new courseshare project need to think about specific supports for their students, Lyn said: “You really have this other community now that we will have to take into account when we think about academic outreach, control of the attendance, etc. . At Benedict, students enroll in shared courses through their advisors.

In late 2021, Benedict entered into a course-sharing agreement with Dillard University, Louisiana, seeing it as an opportunity to send their students to courses run by a like-minded institution.

Fifteen Benedict seniors needed to complete so many credit hours in the spring 2022 semester to graduate on time that it seemed unlikely they could juggle it all, Lyn said. Ideally, they could do some credits during the winter term. Benedict does not, but Dillard does. Approximately 90% of students who participated in the courseshare program returned to graduation.

Stevie L. Lawrence II, vice president for post-secondary education at the Southern Regional Education Board, hopes students and institutions will also use the course-sharing system more creatively. Perhaps they will create new minors or specializations in their majors that would otherwise not be available at their home institutions. The council, known as SREB, coordinates the course sharing project and pays for member institutions to use Acadeum.

Benedict used course sharing to add an MBA program and two majors, and to teach students from college programs that are being phased out.

The original courseshare members, in addition to Benedict, are Albany State University, Clinton College, Fort Valley State University, Langston University, Southeast Arkansas College, and Texas Southern University. SREB is in discussions with other institutions regarding their membership. The initiative is open to HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions in the council’s 16-state area.

Tuition for courses will go to the institution that created and teaches each course, not the student’s home institution. Institution leaders, Lawrence said, are still working on how to make sure students won’t have to pay more than they would to take classes at their home institutions.

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