February 6, 2003
Theo Lutz, Hullabaloo Staff Writer
Tulane has made a mission of working with the local New Orleans, Louisiana and Mississippi Delta regions to advance education and better the local communities. Tulane University and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College signed an articulation agreement Jan. 24 in Biloxi that will allow students who have earned an associates degree in certain fields to continue the pursuit of a bachelors degree at the University College campus in Biloxi.
Response has been mixed as many students feel this will lower the academic quality of Tulane students and the reputation of a Tulane degree. Students who complete the requirements for an associate degree in microcomputer technology, liberal arts, computer programming or graphic design at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College may transfer into a bachelors program of Tulane University's University College Biloxi location.
Unfinished associates degrees, however, will not be eligible for transfer into University College, according to Louis Campomenosi, assistant dean of University College. The Biloxi campus offers degrees in media technology, paralegal studies, organization information technology, business studies and liberal arts and sciences.
The articulation agreement was signed for several reasons, according to Campomenosi. It makes the University College attractive for those students who complete the hours at this community college, and it creates a cooperative, rather than competitive, spirit so as not to alienate the Gulf Coast. The recent articulation agreement between the two schools and the nature of University Colleges programs are responses to a 1997 study that found some basic educational needs were lacking along the Gulf Coast.
There wasn't a single four-year program anywhere on the Gulf coast, Richard Marksbury, dean of University College, said. We didn't want to directly compete with any community colleges, and so that is why we signed this agreement. This is good for the students and for the community. Over 9,400 students in four counties of the Gulf Coast Community College will be eligible to attend Tulane classes.
The expansion to Biloxi is an opportunity for Tulane University's University College to continue to meet its mission in educating the people of the Gulf Coast region and to reach out to our expanded local community. The people of the Biloxi area are delighted that Tulane has opened up doors for them educationally, said Lester Lefton, Tulane's Provost.
Tulane's University College coming to the area has been a major advantage to the people of the Gulf Coast, he said. Financially, the Biloxi campus is independent, and it is growing. During the fall semester, its first semester open, 100 students held approximately 220, and this semester it has grown to include 140 students in approximately 330 seats.
While basic economic ties connect the main campus and Biloxi, it must be made economically viable. It must run in the black, said Campomenosi. It's a matter of marketing, and right now were starting to catch on by word of mouth. I am hoping the summer school registration will put us over the top. Three of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community Colleges associate programs were deemed eligible for transfer credit because it is believed that these programs were the best and produced the most qualified students for Tulane's program.
However, despite this claim some believe that those who complete the programs and receive the Tulane degree do not academically compare to traditional Tulane students. My understanding is that the University College has lower admissions criteria, said Tulane College USG Senator Chad Fernberg. And doesn't admitting more students to Tulane on lower standards effectively lower the standards of our reputation and the Tulane degree as a whole?
The response to this criticism is that such beliefs are no longer an issue. University College has been operating since 1942, and since that time it has been granting degrees under an open admissions policy. According to Richard Marksbury, the mission of Tulane's UC is to serve the local community. We're the largest undergraduate division at Tulane. It doesn't seem to have affected our national reputation at all, Marksbury said.
Many still wonder how Tulane may fairly market itself as a nationally competitive and highly respected institution, while at the same time maintaining such large programs with open admissions standards. The recent articulation agreement that allows students from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, with only two additional years of Tulane education, to receive a full Tulane undergraduate bachelors degree, adds to this speculation.
The UC is designed to reach out to non-traditional students to meet those students individual needs. I just don't think it's fair to judge, said Campomenosi. If people are really concerned they need to look into it more. You have to go beyond the theory to the reality of the quality of the instruction and the students. University College has made sure we get the best instructors. We're well in the ballpark, he said.
Many other highly reputable institutions such as Harvard, Northwestern and Washington University in St. Louis have divisions with similar missions as Tulane's University College. Despite this, fears have been expressed that, because Tulane's reputation is more regional and the school is working toward creating the national reputation of equal par with those schools, students may be attending the school under the assumption that the reputation of its degree will assist them in the future more than other schools.
If this is true, then it is feared that Tulane may be sending opposing messages in its national marketing and its local actions, at the possible risk of the best and the brightest it is attempting to recruit.
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