National Journal

Southern New Hampshire University Online Learning

While many colleges are experimenting with forms of online learning, Southern New Hampshire University, a small private institution in Manchester, has already figured out how to improve the quality of its offerings and expand access. About 25,000 students take SNHU’s online courses, taught by part-time instructors. A software system tracks a number of factors indicative of their success—such as the length of posts on discussion boards and the amount of time that has lapsed since the student’s most-recent college class—as well as teacher involvement online. An all-online bachelor’s degree at SNHU costs about $38,000, a potential breakthrough as rising tuition costs squeeze students and parents.

Valencia College President Sandy Shugart

President Sandy Shugart and his staff at Valencia College in Orlando, Fla., are exceptionally committed to improving student outcomes. Even though the student body is largely low-income, the community college’s graduation rate is triple the average of comparable two-year institutions. Administrators closely monitor student-performance data to inform their decisions, including sometimes restricting student choice (no adding a class if it has already begun meeting) and implementing early orientation and advising. In addition, Valencia maintains strong ties to local employers and industries, and it designs programs to lead directly to well-paying jobs.

Arizona State University President Michael Crow

Arizona State University President Michael Crow has challenged the assumption that in higher education, smaller is better. He has embraced growth to expand access and control costs for the state’s increasingly diverse population. As Arizona State’s enrollment has mushroomed to 70,000, the university has focused on quality and efficiency, while aggressively admitting first-generation and nontraditional students. “We define ourselves by who we include, not who we exclude,” Crow has said. ASU has adopted technology that helps students struggling with remedial courses, implemented a data-driven advising system, and offered shorter semesters for nontraditional students—all while dropping the per student cost $3,000 below the average for a research university.

University of Maryland Chancellor William Kirwan

The University of Maryland system has achieved a remarkable feat—keeping college affordable. Tuition rates for in-state students have increased just 2 percent since 2007, after adjusting for inflation. Facing rising enrollments and the prospect of state budget cuts, Chancellor William Kirwan launched the Effectiveness and Efficiency campaign in 2003, streamlining administrative costs, increasing faculty workload, and requiring that students earn credits in ways other than traditional on-campus classes. The program ended up shaving $40 million from the university budget and impressing state officials so much they committed to freezing tuition rates for four years, starting in 2006.


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