Administrators, faculty discuss possible partnership with private company

March 2, 2009 | News
By Jon Strunk

At a Faculty Senate meeting last Tuesday, faculty and administrators discussed a possible collaboration with a private company, Higher Ed Holdings.

According to Dr. Rosemary Haggett, Main Campus provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, the Texas-based company contacted UT officials to discuss a possible partnership with the Judith Herb College of Education. The proposal would make possible the delivery of the college’s master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and the master’s degree in educational technology into online programs and allow the company to promote them through its statewide relationships with school districts.

Under the financial arrangements of the proposed collaboration, each student enrolled in the programs would still count toward UT’s full-time equivalency number and the University would receive 100 percent of the state share of instruction generated from those FTE numbers. Higher Ed Holdings would receive 70 percent of the tuition costs while the other 30 percent would remain with UT.

Some faculty members present at Tuesday’s meeting said they were worried about losing control of the degree programs, but Haggett said that isn’t what is being discussed.

She said the totally online courses would still follow UT’s curriculum and be UT’s degree programs taught by UT faculty.

Under the partnership, she added, Higher Ed Holdings would provide the distance-learning platform and the resources to convert the UT curriculum to a distance-learning format.

“We’re already the largest purveyor of distance learning in the state,” she said. “This new partnership would be consistent with our goal to expand these distance-learning options and allow people from across the state to pursue these degrees.”

Scott Scarborough, senior vice president for finance and administration, said the company contacted him to see if UT would be interested in the partnership because he had dealt with them previously during his tenure at DePaul University in Chicago

In 2004, DePaul sold Barat College, a small liberal arts school purchased by the university in 2001, to Higher Ed Holdings. Along with the cost of the college, the university received a $1 million investment in the company. Scarborough said he represented DePaul’s small interest in the company by serving on its board of directors, but severed ties when he left the university.

“So they know me,” he said, adding that he has no financial interest in the company. “And when they had this idea, they came to me and I simply passed it along.”

Scarborough said he sent the company to Haggett, who after an initial discussion with Higher Ed Holdings, began to talk about the possibilities with the Judith Herb College of Education.

Haggett said the timetable for deciding to pursue a partnership is compressed.

“Companies work on different timetables than academia does. They’re going to want a decision in the next few weeks rather than months or semesters,” Haggett said, adding that the schedule shouldn’t preclude discussion on the topic. If interest is present, she said, more discussion would take place as the partnership is pursued.

“We are still at the conversational stage,” Haggett said.

Click to access the login or register cheese