The pairing of corporations and higher education to satisfy new mutual needs is growing. Corporations are viewing collaboration with colleges and universities as a means for employee training in addition to enabling recruitment and retention. Recognizing the growing segment of working adult students, higher education is eyeing the potential for increased enrollment and associated revenue streams. The combination of external forces and internal pressures has created a rich opportunity for the development of partnerships involving traditional academic institutions.
For you, the business organization, choosing the right academic partner is critical to the success of your corporate/college partnership—so how do you do it? Here are a few things to think about:
Academic Quality: You should partner with a college or university that demonstrates quality through accreditation. The academic institution should be regionally accredited and recognized for the academic field of study you are interested in. What’s accreditation? Accreditation is a validation process used within higher education to evaluate institutions against established standards and to insure a high level of educational quality. The most common type of accreditation is regional accreditation. Generally, college credits or degrees received at a regionally accredited institution are accepted by other regionally accredited colleges or universities.
Track Record of Partnering: You want an academic partner that has had previous experience working with corporations. Has the college or university been successful in its partnership activities? Does it understand the corporate culture and how to work with business? Is the academic institution willing to provide you with names of clients who will provide a reference for it? If so, talk to these clients to assess whether you would want to partner with the institution.
Financial Stability: You want to choose a college or university that is on solid financial footing and can make the financial commitments required to support a partnership. Colleges and universities that are losing financial ground during this economic downturn may not be able to make the investments necessary to achieve the goals of your program.
Willingness to Customize Programs: If your organization needs customized curriculum to support the training and development needs of your employees, the academic partner must be willing and able to develop and deliver programs to meet your specific business needs and goals. Is the faculty willing to collaborate with industry experts to understand job competencies and develop customized curriculum? Can the academic partner provide expertise in the functional business areas that are important to you?
Faculty: The faculty from the academic partner must be flexible and willing to provide relevant curriculum and programs for adults. Is the faculty willing to teach adults? Are they willing to come to your site to teach courses in the evening or on weekends? Are they willing to teach online courses to meet your employees' needs?
Adult Learner Support Services: The academic partner must understand the needs of working adults and provide support in the areas of admissions, financial aid, and advisement. Does the academic partner offer support for adults who may never have attended college or have been out of college for many years? Are learner support services readily available, at convenient times, for busy adults who may be juggling a family, career, and college?
Willingness to Accept Previously Earned College Credits: Is the academic partner willing to honor the college credits your employees may have earned at other colleges or universities? You should choose an academic partner that is willing to accept transfer credits from other academic institutions and apply them toward degree programs within its institution. The acceptance of transfer credits, allows your employees to complete degree programs sooner and at a lower cost. If you provide tuition assistance to your employees, the ability to transfer previously earned credits will reduce your tuition assistance expenditures.
Consider these selection criteria before you select an academic partner. Choosing the right partner will set you on the path to a successful corporate/college partnership, benefiting not only you but your company as well.
Sylvia G. Hamilton is vice provost for Strategic Partnerships, and Mary Ellen Caro is executive vice provost, at Thomas Edison State College. To contact them, email Sylvia at email@example.com