Chancellor's Fact Sheet
Eliminating University Support for
Learning Centers
in Grand Island, North Platte, and Lincoln

SEPTEMBER 10, 2002

University of Nebraska-Lincoln




Background and Reduction
UNL, through both the Division of Continuing Studies and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has been a partner in learning centers established by the communities of Grand Island and North Platte and recently engaged a program specialist for Southeast Nebraska. The original concept of the learning centers was to create a focal point for educational programming for these communities and their surrounding areas. At the time they were established, most distance education was through satellite delivery or by physically transporting faculty to a central site. As the evidence below will suggest, current technology depends less on a physical facility as distance educational programs are migrating rapidly to on-line instruction where learners can access the programs from their homes and/or businesses.

  A. Grand Island College Park
UNL from both the Division of Continuing Studies and Cooperative Extension are currently investing $136,590/year in College Park. These funds support salaries for the Director of the Center, a coordinator, a secretary, and operating expenses. None of these funds go directly for distance education support. Enrollments at the Center have decreased dramatically as demonstrated by the following chart:

  Time Period Number of Courses Total Enrollment
  FY 97-98 15 61
  FY 98-99 10 29
  FY 99-00 11 26
  FY 00-01 13 38
  FY 01-02 8 18
  Fall 2002 3 5
   
This does not reflect the number of students taking distance education courses. In the Spring Semester, 2002, while there were 12 enrollments at College Park there were 39 enrollments in the Grand Island / College Park region taking on-line courses. This Fall, while there are only 5 students enrolled at College Park, there are at least 24 students in the Hastings, Kearney and Grand Island area taking on-line courses.

  B. North Platte Learning Center
UNL from both the Division of Continuing Studies and Cooperative Extension are currently investing $53,493/year for the North Platte center. These funds support salaries for the coordinator, project assistance, and operating expenses. None of these funds go directly for distance education support. The North Platte Center has one small distance education classroom located at the West Central Research and Extension Center. Enrollments at the Center have also decreased. For the fiscal year 01-02 there were 4 enrollments and for Fall 2002, there are no enrollments. At the same time within the West Central Extension District there are at least 11 students working on-line with UNL.

  C. Southeast Extended Education Program Specialist
This position was created and filled in June of 2001. The primary responsibility is to work with businesses and organizations to develop customized training programs in Southeast Nebraska including the Omaha area. This function will become part of Conferences and Professional Programs. UNL is currently investing $59,710/year.

Why not eliminate the Learning Centers in Scottsbluff and Norfolk?
UNL will continue its support at learning centers in Scottsbluff and Norfolk as long as budget circumstances permit. UNL has already made a significant reduction to our services in the Scottsbluff area with closure of the veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Moreover, the existing physical facilities of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center are available for distance education programming and the Scottsbluff Center has demonstrated the capacity to raise revenue through non-credit programming.

The Norfolk center has focused primarily on on-line instruction and the coordinator in Norfolk recruits in the Northeast Extension District. FY01-02 enrollments were 188 and Fall 2002 enrollments number 79, most of which are on-line. The coordinator has also been active in securing grants to help support and develop programs and is the lead person on the $248,000 three year USDA Higher Education Challenge grant to support the collaborative UNL, Wayne State College, and Northeast Community College BS in Horticulture program. She is also working collaboratively with a member of the Teachers College faculty on a multi-million dollar proposal that, if funded, would work with Hispanic para-professionals to encourage them to obtain a teaching degree and work in Northeast Nebraska schools.


Future Plans
These reductions do not reflect an intention to abandon the affected areas for distance education. Programming will continue. For credit courses will continue to be offered on-line where most of the enrollment occurs. The greatest impact may be on non-credit programs where the coordinators of the learning centers have been helpful in organizing and promoting such programs. However, since March of 2002 all Cooperative Extension Offices have been identified as points of contact for UNL outreach programs. All county office web pages are being linked to the Web page for UNL’s Office of Extended Education. Our expectation is that Cooperative Extension will assume a more significant role, in conjunction with our new Conferences and Professional Programs unit, in coordinating and promoting professional programs of a non-credit nature. UNL extension offices are available to help coordinate and promote programs from UNK as well.

We will continue to deliver some satellite programming to College Park and are prepared to pay for the rental of classroom space on an as needed basis. We will do the same for North Platte.



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