A plan crafted by leaders within the University of Louisiana System to bring college dropouts back into the fold cleared another hurdle Tuesday.
The UL Board of Supervisors approved an agreement among the system’s nine universities to launch a collaborative degree program leading to a bachelor’s of arts degree in organizational leadership.
The degree, to be offered exclusively online, was approved last month by the Louisiana Board of Regents, the state’s higher education management board.
When it’s up and running, the accelerated degree program for adults will offer students the choice of nine distinct organizational leadership degrees offered collaboratively across institutions including the University of New Orleans and Louisiana Tech University, in Ruston.
Core classes will be taught at all schools, but the specific concentrations will be taught by faculty at different universities.
Students interested in disaster relief management would take concentration classes through Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. Students interested in learning how to manage employees in the health and wellness fields would take concentration classes through the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The agreement approved by the UL board Tuesday essentially ratifies an agreement signed by presidents of all nine universities to share faculty, staff and technology.
Students ages 25 and up who have completed 60 hours of college credit including general education courses will be eligible to participate in the degree program. Students who fall short on credits will have opportunities to earn those credits online or through other means.
Beatrice Baldwin, the UL System’s vice president of research and performance assessment, said the courses will be offered in five, eight-week terms each year.
“The program can be completed in two years,” she said.
UL Vice President for Business and Finance Robbie Robinson said the program will cost students a flat $325 fee per credit totaling $19,500 over two years.
Baldwin said that similar programs charge as much as $500 per credit.
“This will place us in a very competitive position,” she said. Students would be eligible for financial aid, she added.
Baldwin said she hopes to start registering students in February and start classes in May.
For now, she said, the system is still ironing out details and won’t be ready to start handling inquiries from the public or marketing the program until late this year.
She said the program is designed for students with careers and families who want to move through the program as quickly as possible. The classes, however, are designed to be more rigorous than just learning how to become a manager, Baldwin said.
As many as 60 students could register in its first year, she said.
Louisiana has about 23,000 students who could benefit from the degree, according to a regents study which compiled the number of students who stopped attending college classes within the last 10 years.
Interim System President Tom Layzell said the collaboration among universities is the main reason the program can be offered for a competitive price. “The result will be a cost-effective, flexible degree for Louisiana’s working adults,” Layzell said.
Tuesday was Layzell’s first board meeting since the former state commissioner of higher education agreed to serve as interim system president. A search committee is expected to pick finalists for the position on Nov. 1. The full board is scheduled to choose a new president by mid-November.
In other business, the UL Finance Committee reported that the system will realize nearly $15 million in savings through the 2014-15 fiscal year as a result of its incentivized employee retirement program.