Fogler Library hosted the first Salon Series event on planning the next-generation university on Sept. 12.
The Salon’s first public discussion was titled “Planning the Next-Generation University: Parachuting Off the Enrollment Cliff,” and was aimed at considering new approaches to combat looming threats of enrollment decline, along with what has been perceived by many as the growing irrelevance of the traditional university model.
Now, it will serve an additional purpose: being a comfortable space to hold open conversations and brainstorm solutions to issues currently facing the University of Maine and beyond as it continues on with the Salon Series.
One solution discussed concerning a non-traditional path to increase enrollment was the Adult Degree Completion Scholarship available to qualifying returning students in the UMaine System. Sometimes, life happens and students leave before completing a degree program. There is now a greater emphasis being placed on providing opportunities for adult students to return and complete their educational career at a flexible pace.
Another concern raised the question of how to make classes more accessible to non-traditional students for whom typical class schedules are difficult to commit to. A few solutions were floated around in response to this, including offering more night classes, as well as classes that begin mid-way through the semester.
Universities can also be home to those who have already earned undergraduate or graduate degrees and wish to continue on with their learning as fields introduce new tools and become increasingly technologically advanced.
Tuesday’s event featured faculty members Dr. Richard Corey, director of UMaine’s VEMI Lab and Associate Graduate Faculty in the School of Computing and Information Science, Dean Giovanni Guidoboni of the College of Engineering, Dr. Jon Ippolito, Professor of New Media and Director of the Digital Curation program and Dr. Peter Schilling, Executive Director of Innovation in Teaching and Learning and Graduate Faculty in Instructional Technology.
“There are a lot of skill sets that do need updating every five to 10 years, at least to understand where things are at. I think the first thing we have to do is open up the ability to offer classes you can drop into,” said Corey.
The ability to drop into classes could allow those who wish to continue learning or to update their skill sets to attend specific classes that they feel are useful. This idea, however, could prove difficult to execute effectively for those who are not officially enrolled as students.
“If we’re talking about people who are parachuting in, as Rick said, we’re like, okay what’s the sequence of these modules? There’s no sequence. They can join at any point. That’s really critical,” Ippolito said regarding the possibility of allowing drop-in classes.
Discussion centered around the traditional college learning path recognized that students are increasingly concerned about long-term debt from student loans and often question whether receiving a college education is really worth the financial burden.
There is a lot of uncertainty over what approaches will most effectively combat declining enrollment and what some perceive as the irrelevancy of the traditional college education model, but UMaine and its dedicated faculty members appear committed to finding solutions that will meet the needs of those who do not fit the traditional college student model and those who are skeptical about the benefits of pursuing higher education.
To view upcoming events in the Salon Series, visit https://library.umaine.edu/salon/.