This project is my own research and assessment on both the micro and macro environment factors that affect my internship employer, Berkeley College. The project analyses the Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats present within and without the environment within which Berkeley operates. Within the discussion, the project findings are analyzed against industry best practices. This project also involves making comparisons with Berkeley’s peer institutions. Conclusions on what position Berkeley occupies are made. Within the discussion and analysis valuable recommendations are offered.
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During my internship at Berkeley College, several features have struck me as unique to Berkeley. Similar to other famous institutions of higher education, Berkeley has over time fashioned itself as a preferred college of choice. Among the most unique features is Berkeley core strength in the ability to offer better education through small classrooms. Smaller classrooms ensure that there is a smaller student-educator ratio.
This increases interaction between students and teachers, and as Shannon (12) argues, smaller ratio of teacher-students increases the level of collaboration and communication within the teaching learning process. Berkeley small classroom model tends to conform to research findings on the relationship between smaller classroom and improved students’ achievement. Additionally, Berkeley uniqueness is reflected in its accelerated learning programs.
In most colleges, a common Bachelor’s degree takes between four to five years. However, as I discovered in the fist three weeks of my internship, Berkeley operates a trimester program which allows students to complete their bachelor degree in three years. Recent studies reveal that the need for accelerated learning has increased and is necessitated by a number of factors. According to McCaig, Bowers-Brow and Drew (27) the need for accelerated learning can be attributed to the baby boomer phenomenon, which resulted in these population growth rates.
The ever expanding population, related to the baby boomer phenomenon has increased the demand for education. This results in higher demand for more classes to cater for the increase in the number of students. While Berkeley has experienced an increase in student population in recent years McCaig, Bowers-Brow and Drew (27) assertion does not seem to be the rationale for Berkeley’s small classroom system.
This raises the question on the rationale for having the small classroom system. in view of this I scheduled a meeting with my supervisor on week three to seek answers to this question. According to my supervisor, accelerated learning program is in response to the tough economic times. More students are attracted to Berkeley accelerated learning programs, for economic reasons. Students are able to complete an associate degree programs in one and a half years instead of two, while a Bachelors degree program in three instead of four years.
This has two major economic benefits. One, spending less time in school means less expenditure on education and thus students are able to save. Additionally, completing a degree early means that graduates from Berkeley join the job market earlier. This incases their earnings. Additionally, accelerated learning is improved by flexible rescheduling programs within several departments at Berkeley. This implies that students are able to reschedule their trimesters at their own convenience.
Other than offering internships, Berkeley has a tradition of creating valuable networks and thus is able to realize a 90% job placement for its graduates. This statistics comes at a time when college placement programs across the country are increasingly facing scrutiny to authenticate their validity. According to NASFAA (para. 4), most of the for-profit private colleges fabricate their job placement figures to hoodwink prospective students into joining them.
However, Berkeley’s wide networks of prospective employees validate her impressive job placement statistic. In line with my discovery in week two on the nature of an increasing need for higher student financing, a trimester seems relevant for Berkeley. As such, the college outdoes most of her peers in job placement success. Most importantly Berkeley values it employees’ career progress and as such has a program within which employees are educated for free in degree programs in which they qualify.
Berkeley offers scholarships to employees on degree in which they qualify. As explained elsewhere in this essay, this is intended to increase employee growth opportunities. In the present circumstances, employers, such as The University of California, San Francisco have realized the need to embark on employee education. The primary purpose of employee education is to equip employees with adequate skills in a changing job market (UCSF para. 5).
This ensures that employee can meet the complicated dynamics of a modern job. In this regard, the number of employers offering free training to their employees has increased. This is referred to as human resource empowerment and is intended to enhance employee career growth opportunities by increasing employee competitiveness in the job market. This implies that, like other institutions of higher learning, Berkeley has embarked on developing employee leadership, management as well as career progress.
However, a closer look at employee growth opportunities at Berkeley indicates that the existing opportunities within the university do not meet expectations. As such, while Berkeley is a preferred destination for many students, on the employment front, lack of career growth opportunities is likely to slow employee growth, a vital factor towards institutional development.
Berkeley’s trimester program is one of its key areas of strengths, which also gives Berkeley an advantage over other institutions. However, the trimester program has exposed the university to certain weaknesses. For instance, it is difficult to implement rules and regulations since those rules are developed for semester programs. This realization puts Berkeley’s trimester system into sharp focus especially due to recent findings. In a resent survey, most of the intuitions that claim to have trimester programs actually have a quarter-based semester systems. These quarter-based programs are treated as trimester programs.
This assertion is reflected at Berkeley, bearing in mind that all her rules and regulations are semester specific. While doing originating loans for students in week two and three I released that most of the fees were paid based on quarters rather than trimesters. Additionally a survey conducted on some of the major colleges which offer trimester programs failed to identify Berkeley as one of the major trimester institutions. The findings are shown in the table 1 below
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With regards to this shortcoming, a popular 4-1-4 system seems relevant. In this system, nine courses are offered in the first four months, a course in one month while four remaining courses in the next four months. This would enable Berkeley overcome weaknesses in implementing rules and regulations. As indeed reflected in survey findings described in Table 2 below, the 4-1-4 program is more popular than the trimester program. Additionally, despite being an Art college, Berkeley does not have a well developed art program. Currently no degree in liberal arts is offered. As such, instead of introducing a new MBA programs, a degree in liberal arts seems more appropriate.
Despite the challenges faced by Berkeley, the college offers numerous courses online, giving her a competitive edge over her peers. This presents the college with enormous opportunities for expansion. While attending the College Presidential Convocation in week 5, I learnt that the college online learning, started 12 years ago, is currently enrolled at more than 2500 students. The program has grown in leaps and bounds, to the extent that it now offers 28 degrees online.
Berkley’s online learning faces stiff competition from University of Maryland, Chapel Hill and College Park. However, Berkeley online learning best practices have ensured that the program is a pacesetter in online learning. One of the key features of this program is the structured blackboard system, which utilizes an online blackboard as a major learning and interactive resource. This is opposed to what other institutions do, as they incorporate a virtual blackboard as a mere teaching aid. Additionally, Berkeley has developed interactive virtual instruction technologies that enhance communication between students and teachers.
The instruction system allows instructors to utilize their own abilities rather than rely on online technologies for instruction. This make online learning no different from learning in a real class. Berkeley’s online teaching is also flexible. It is has two system; the open entry, which allows students to enroll any time of the year, and the fixed entry, which only allows enrollment at certain times of the year. As mentioned by the Colleges president during the presidential convocation, this is intended at attracting as many non-traditional college students as possible. For its efforts in online learning the college has won numerous awards such as “Innovative Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Technology” as well as “Best Practices Gold Award for Excellence in Teaching Online in Online Higher Education”
Berkeley’s success in online programs comes at a time when online learning is facing criticism from experts. According to one of the directors involved in education technology at City University of New York System, criticism on the credibility of online education results to causal fallacies, since critics ask misleading questions instead of offering thoughtful insights (Kolowich para. 6).
As noted by the College President during the convocation, Berkeley’s online learning presents new opportunities, but Kolowich (para. 7) asserts that online learning increases the chances of academic cheating. In this regard, question on how the Berkeley plans to tackle cheating in online learning seems relevant. Additionally, it is also imperative to ask whether Berkeley’s online teaching actually promotes cheating. However, since Berkeley’s online classes resemble real classrooms, this reduces chances of cheating. Moreover, cheating in education is not an entirely new phenomenon. So it cannot be merely blamed on online technologies.
Other than online teaching, Berkeley’s small classroom model presents it with opportunities to attract different types of students since small classroom enable for individualized teaching. In addition to this, Berkeley’s success in job placements attracts many students, as compared to 10 – 30 % success by close competitors. This comes at a time when rival colleges face probe for manipulating job placement statistics, and implies that such success means more opportunities over these competitors
In week 5 of my internship I had an interview with Financial Aid Senior Director. One of the questions I wanted answered was on what regulations existed on students funding. While the Financial Aid Senior Director noted that regulators were tightening rules on student borrowing, The College president noted that a weakening economy necessitates cuts in government funding in essential areas such as education.
This exposes educational intuitions to the risk of budget deficits. Thus, proprietary funding is an external threat for Berkley. Cutting federal spending on education is necessitated by a number of factors, but as Sen. Harkin asserts, for-profit colleges are undermining the recoverability of such funds (The White House para. 4). In addition, coming in the wake of the recent occurrences that affected the housing industry, it is imperative to be diligent in education spending (Basken para. 3).
As I discovered during the first three weeks of processing student loans, Berkeley, as are other institutions, is increasingly restricting students borrowing through very strict loan eligibility criteria. In view of this, I scheduled an interview with Senior VP of Financial Aid in week 6. In this session I had several questions I wanted answered, thus: to what extent does the recession influence student financing? Is the college taking measure to revise its loan regulations in light of this? While Senior VP of Financial Aid admits that the current financial situation is leading to strict regulation of students’ loan application, Potter (para. 1) asserts that due to recession, many students are opting for public universities as opposed to private for-profit colleges.
This is despite the increase in tuition fees in public institutions. Additionally, due to the financial downturn, many people are opting to join colleges that offer the best value for money (Adbul-Alim para. 2). The federal government has responded to the effects of recession by developed a PAYE program for students which reduces monthly installments paid on educational loads. This is aimed at not only attracting many students back to college but also lighten the burden of loan repayments.
This has a number of implications. Private colleges will increasingly attract students who do not qualify for the traditional college system. This further puts into focus the relationship between college attainment rate and graduation rates. As explained by Gray (para. 5) these two variables will increasingly become incompatible. As such, colleges will become more selective; the admission criteria will change to address these new dynamics. Such selectiveness implies that students’ choice of university is significantly reduced and that students are denied the right to apply for admission in their college of choice.
In regard to the above mentioned threats and challenges, Berkeley is looking into the future in anticipation. The college has put several measures in preparation for the future, bearing in mind the present challenges. In regard to this, Berkeley continues to develop its curriculum offering, with online learning as well as new education programs in mind. To begin with, Berkeley is offering scholarships to students based on academic as well as intellectual skills.
This is aimed at bridging the gap created by disparities between higher attainment and graduation rates. In line with The Accord singed by proprietary institutions in the US, and which aims at providing education opportunities in tough economic times Berkeley College 2), Berkeley’s project graduation focuses on encouraging students who have dropped out of college to come back for further studies, at a lower cost. Additionally, Berkeley has developed an MBA program that launches in the Fall of 2012. However, such a move seems ill informed based on the recent discoveries. Due to the recent socioeconomic challenges, employers now prefer undergraduates to Masters Graduates.
According to Mr. Brostoff, a career advisor at Olin Business School at Washington University, major financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the Bank of America Corp. as well as international security firms such Wells Fargo & Co. prefer undergraduates since they are cheaper to higher and maintain (Korn para. 3). This indicates that an MBA program at Berkeley come at an inopportune time; a time when least required. In this case, Berkeley needs to reconsider establishing more degree programs such as liberal arts. By doing this it will not only become the college of choice for many students, but do so while fulfilling the current labor market demands.
From the analysis above it is evident that Berkeley is faced by real concerns going forward. However, the college seems well prepared. To enhance its position as a market leader, the college needs to conduct further research before embarking on any program. This will enable the college not only increase its market competitiveness, but also offer market-relevant programs. It is imperative to mention that one of the key areas which make Berkeley unique is her online learning program. The college should increase its investment in online learning to encourage increased enrollment. Since online learning is relatively cheaper, this will serve current educational needs especially under the current economic constraints.
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The White House. We Can’t Wait: Obama Administration to Lower Student Loan Payments for Millions of Borrowers. 2011. Web.
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