Some Colleges Are Teaming Up and Sharing Courses to Survive

Eureka College’s course-sharing computer science major brought in nine new freshmen this semester who Dr. Fulop said wouldn’t otherwise have come; before then, she said, the college was losing prospects who wanted career-focused majors. Rochester University in Michigan, which has 1,100 students, added seven programs through course sharing, including digital marketing, computer science and certified financial planning, programs that it says collectively attracted 78 applicants — 32 of whom enrolled.

“This can be a way of saying, ‘We’re willing to go beyond what we have here, if that’s what you want. We’d much rather you stay here, so let’s figure out a way to get you that course,’ ” said Ben Selznick, an associate professor in strategic leadership studies at James Madison University, who focuses on innovation in higher education.

Community colleges are using course sharing, too, both to restore their enrollment, which has also been plummeting, and to fill gaps caused by faculty departures, said Rufus Glasper, the president and chief executive of the League for Innovation in the Community College. “This may be another leg of the stool until we can stabilize our enrollment going forward,” he said.

HBCUs are also adopting the approach.

“A student chooses a small HBCU for its overall culture,” said Roslyn Clark Artis, the president of Benedict College, an HBCU in South Carolina, and co-chair of the SREB course-sharing consortium. “That doesn’t mean the student then shouldn’t have access to programs that can be considered professional in nature.”

As for the advantage to the college, she said, having career-focused programs available through course sharing “is a marketing element for us.”

And it’s having an effect, based on the decisions of some applicants.

Even though she wanted to go to a smaller college, Jordan Hunt had dismissed the idea of applying to Adrian because it didn’t have a computer science major. “Then they started up the major.” Ms. Hunt is now a sophomore at Adrian studying computer science.

Rebekah Wright went to the even smaller Emmaus Bible College in Iowa, which had an enrollment last year of 193 students. She and her parents alike “thought that it would be just way too small. One of their questions when I visited Emmaus was, ‘What’s the placement rate? How many students go directly into the workforce?’ ”

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