Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 78: Budget Expansion Approved

The State Board of Community Colleges on Friday approved an expansion budget that represents an increase of 21.6 percent in operating funds for fiscal year 2001-02 and a 24.3 percent increase for fiscal year 2001-03. Raising faculty salaries, increasing summer term funding and improving instruction resources were among the priorities addressed.

“We have put forth a determined effort to improve the salary status for our faculty and this budget helps get us closer to the Southern Regional average,” said Kennon Briggs, vice president for business and finance for the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS), in a released statement.

Highlights of the budget include $57.5 million to increase faculty salaries, $9.9 million for staff to handle the growing demands for financial aid, career counseling and other student services, and close to a million dollars for curriculum and professional development programs. Other highlights include $51.7 million in 2001-02 and $72.9 million in 2002-03 to enhance instruction for adult learners through a combination of regular term instruction, enhanced summer term offerings and distance education.

The State Board will present its request to state lawmakers for approval during the next session of the General Assembly.

Leap in Online Education Predicted

Investors are pouring millions, “soon to be billions,” into online education, according to a recent report in Forbes magazine (September 11, 2000). Conservative figures from analysts at Thomas Weisel Partners, a merchant bank in San Francisco, estimate a $10 billion virtual higher-ed market by 2003 and an $11 billion corporate-learning market by the same year.

“That’s $21 million from almost nothing and it’s the kind of market that makes venturesome investors drool,” says Forbes reporter Danielle Svetcov. The article goes on to highlight some of the big players in online education:

“Michael Milken, his brother Lowell and Oracle’s Larry Ellison run Knowledge Universe, a venture hatchery for educational and training companies. Washington Post Co. is knee-deep in edu-ventures including KaplanCollege.com, which offers 500 online courses across nine professions. Wall Street magnate Herbert Allen of Allen & Co. has earmarked $20 million to launch and sustain Global Education Network (GEN)…”

Forbes says that the one segment of the online education market moving the most confidently is corporate training programs. “For the average company, use of e-learning is 50 percent to 90 percent cheaper than bringing in real-life teachers and holding formal classes.”

Last week, the Chronicle of Higher Education announced the formation of two major online initiatives involving major commercial providers of higher education. DeVry Institutes has won accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools for online versions of its bachelor’s-degree programs in business and information technology. About 43,000 student now take courses at one the 18 campuses of the Illinois-based company, one of the largest in its sector.

And Harcourt General publishing company announced last month that it received approval to operate from the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. The all-virtual university will offer five degree programs: associate and bachelor’s degrees in information technology and in business, and bachelor’s degrees in health science. More than 600 people have applied for adjunct slots.