For this podcast we talk employability and affordability with Roger Pao from the New England College of Business. As Assistant Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Roger helps the school design curriculum that keeps the information and the programs relevant for their students. With the average age of the New England College of Business's undergraduate student at 34, Roger talks about the importance of articulation agreements in being able to accept credits to keep students from paying twice for the same information.
Welcome to the MBS Direct podcast, where we talk with some of our partners who are doing interesting things with content and education. I'm Carrie Watkins, Senior Digital Consultant with MBS Direct, and today we are talking with Roger Pao, the Assistant Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the New England College of Business. Thank you for joining us, Roger.
Roger Pao: Thank you so much, Carrie, for having me.
Carrie Watkins: You have a lot of roles at the New England College of Business. You are involved in curriculum development, you actually do some teaching. Tell us a little bit about what your role is at the New England College of Business.
Roger: Currently I am the Assistant Provost, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, and an assistant professor as well. I teach courses in our Master of Business Administration program and our Master of Business Ethics and Compliance program, as well as our Master of Science in Finance program. On the administrative side, I am responsible for a number of things related to accreditation compliance as well as compliance with state laws. I'm also responsible for hearing any disputes relate to etiquette amongst students, or plagiarism amongst students. I'm also responsible for assuring that, as you mentioned, the curriculum flows appropriately for students across the various programs that we have at the college. We have three bachelor's programs — a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, a Bachelor of Science in International Business, and a Bachelor of Science in Digital Marketing — making sure that the experience is an ideal one for students there.
Carrie: The New England College of Business has been around for 100 years, but you guys recently, within the last 10 years, changed your name. Originally you were focused more on banking and finance, and you've broadened that since 2008 to encompass a lot more. Curriculum design, it seems like, would be very interesting for you guys as you continue to roll out new products and new degree programs, I would think.
Roger: Yes, that's absolutely correct. Over the past decade or so we have expanded our focus beyond banking and finance. Up until fairly recently we had only offered Associate's degrees, and now we offer Associate's, Bachelor's and Master's degrees. We have a Master of Healthcare Management–Digital Marketing, we have a Bachelor of Science in Digital Marketing–International Business, we have a Bachelor of Science in International Business and Human Resource Management.
Carrie: How often do you add new degree programs to your lineup?
Roger: Over the past six years we have added eight new degree programs, which is a lot, because, unfortunately we only had one, and now we have nine, and over the course of the next year we plan to add four new programs, and so we'll have a total of 13 by the end of 2017, hopefully. We're very excited about this expansion into different industries.
Carrie: That's very exciting, but it's got to be a lot of work. Obviously, as you said, you guys are putting a lot of effort into identifying where the areas might be for your students to be successful. It sounds like you've already done that with digital marketing, and really helping students focus on that. Can you let us know maybe some of the big ideas behind what you're looking at for new programs?
Roger: Yes. One of the things we are looking at is, what fields would our potential students most benefit from? Different fields that we're looking at include insurance and risk management, big data, data analytics, which aligns with our digital marketing program, as well as more traditional fields like accounting, for example.
Carrie: Absolutely, some of those more traditional things still have a strong foundation in anything else that we might encounter over the next couple years as things change around us. You've been in the industry; how has that changed over the last couple of years, in your focus and what you see your role as, before you came to the New England College of Business, and now that you are here at the New England College of Business?
Roger: It's funny because I started off my career as an attorney, and actually my discipline is business law, that's my primary discipline, but I'd always wanted to enter into academia. I always wanted to be a professor, even while I was practicing the law. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity, while I was practicing law, to become an adjunct faculty member at the New England College of Business. I found that I was hooked. I really enjoy teaching students, working with students, collaborating with students, so I've always enjoyed working with students and helping students be successful.
As far as what has changed recently, there has been more and more of a focus on helping students develop skills that are directly applicable to the workplace. That is something, of course, being a college of business, that we do very successfully. Because most of our courses, especially our business courses, are geared towards preparing students for a career in the business field.
Carrie: How do you see your students using the skills that they earn from the New England College of Business?
Roger: I think being an institution where the average age of our undergraduate student is 34, and the average age of our graduate students is 35, we are really sensitive to the needs of the adult learner. As you mentioned, most of our students are employed. About half of our students are currently still employed in the banking and finance sector, even though we have expanded into other fields. We definitely see our role as far as helping students advance in their already existing careers, or helping them segue into related careers, building up their competencies and skills.
For example, you can actually advance pretty far up in the banking industry without even your bachelor's degree, or at least you could in the past, and so there are managers and vice presidents at banks that do not have their bachelor's degree. It's just that they simply graduated from high school and they entered the workforce directly, probably starting off as a teller at a bank. Maybe they've gotten to a place in their career where they realize they need that master's degree in order to get that promotion. We find that a lot of our students are wanting to get that credential, wanting to develop the skills that they need to earn that promotion, for example.
Carrie: The experience, and being able to prove those competencies, has been able to get them to a certain level within the organization, and now they look to the New England College of Business to help them make it where they see their career needs to go, which is really awesome.
What do you think education needs most right now, from your point of view?
Roger: I think one of the most important topics that has been in the headlines is this issue of affordability. What the industry needs is to figure out more ways to make degrees more affordable for students, and the US Department of Education's College Affordability and Transparency Center has listed the New England College of Business and Finance as one of the most affordable private institution, four-year or higher, as far as the degree level. Affordability is actually part of the mission of the New England College of Business.
There are a couple reasons why the College can be affordable. One of them is thanks to our corporate partners, who subsidize a large part, or in some cases all, of our students' tuitions. The students who are at our at our institutions are employees of these corporate partners. That's our company benefit that corporate partners like banks and credit unions provide to students. Being one of the few institutions that's regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, commissions of institutions of higher education, that's 100% online and master's granting, I think has also helped us be able to provide a relatively more affordable education to students. We're more for the working adult professional who is looking to advance in their career.
Carrie: You guys have been able to focus on affordability and manage your overhead so that you don't have some of those costs for just operating, by keeping the online courses and the high quality, and then the corporate partners.That's a really interesting program that we don't hear about a lot.
What do you think is some of the most interesting things happening, that you're sort of keeping an eye on?
Roger: A couple of the large industry developments that have been talked about over, I guess, the past several years, have been massive open online courses, MOOC, and competency-based education. I'd actually like to highlight a third domain that I find interesting, which is articulation agreements. I think articulation agreements have been around for a long time.
I should mention, what I mean by articulation agreements are agreements that two institutions enter into with one another that allow for the transferability of credit, so students do not have to duplicate coursework that they have taken. For example they might have taken English Composition 1 at Institution A, and Institution B also offers English Composition 1. If Institution B determines that the English composition course at Institution A is of an equivalent quality and rigor, then they don't need to take that course again. I think that articulation agreements are very, very helpful for students, because they save students both money and time so they don't have to take coursework over and over again, and they're also a great way to build relationships and exchange ideas among different institutions.
Carrie: Absolutely. That transfer of credit is so important, because as you ware working with working adults probably a great majority of them have credits elsewhere from a start and stop for a degree program. Life happens, and they just had to move or do something differently in order to continue on with their career. Do you have a lot of schools in the area that you work with for those articulation agreements?
Roger: Yes, we've ventured into articulation agreements with many community colleges in the state of Massachusetts. We've also entered into articulation agreements with a variety of different institutions and organizations whose coursework we have determined to be of an equivalent rigor and quality for the courses that we have. I think that it's a very exciting development for our students. We always want our students to be able to learn as much as they can in our courses, but we don't want to make them essentially have to pay twice for the same work.
Carrie: Absolutely, and that goes back to that affordability at the student level. Are those pretty common? Do you see more schools working on these?
Roger: Yes. One of the interesting developments that I've seen are four plus one articulation agreements, where essentially an institution that grants a bachelor's degree pairs up with another institution that grants a master's degree, and instead of completing the master's and bachelor's degrees in six years, students can complete the two degrees in five years. That's because some of the coursework that an undergraduate student takes would be at the master's level, and the master's level coursework can then substitute for bachelor's level work.
Carrie: It sounds like you guys are poised to do some really awesome things over the next couple of years in terms of your curriculum development, employability for your students, and of course giving your students the best experience while they're taking their degree from the New England College of Business. How would somebody go about learning more, either as an institution interested in one of these articulation agreements, or as a student who just wants to learn more about your organization?
Roger: I'm always very interested in talking with college administrators, deans and provosts, who are interested in potentially entering into an articulation agreement with our college. As far as learning general information about the college, obviously our website is a great place to start. It's www.NECB.edu, and we have a lot of information on our website, including our fast tracks, our history, and our accreditation.
Carrie: Thank you very much, Roger, for your time. I learned a lot about New England College of Business, this was fascinating. Thank you very much for your partnership, and I look forward to keeping track of New England College of Business over the next couple years, and I'm excited to see where it goes from here.
Roger: Thank you very much. We have been very happy with the services that MBS has provided to us.
For more information on any of the topics discussed in this podcast, or any other questions you have about digital content options, contact your account manager or you can reach out to me, Carrie Watkins, Senior Digital Consultant, on Twitter, @CarrieJWatkins.