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K-State Today

June 19, 2012

A win-win: Grant program creates revenue for university, enhances distance education

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

In 2009, Kansas State University's Division of Continuing Education was put on a fixed annual budget and staff members became concerned about the capacity to provide funding for new programs. However, what is happening three years later is something Dave Stewart, associate dean of continuing education, says they never expected.

Not only is the number of distance education students at Kansas State University growing 8-12 percent every year, but the Division of Continuing Education's grant program is also producing net revenue at a rate of more than $2 for every $1 invested.

"Now that's a revenue win for the university, but it is also, we think, a tremendous win for our distance education students," Stewart said.

When the university established a fixed annual budget for the Division of Continuing Education three years ago, Sue Maes, continuing education dean, received approval to include a grant program in the annual budget to fund developing programs. In its first year, the grant program was provided $300,000 and funded 37 new projects.

While some of those projects include new courses, such as the development of 10 courses for the animal health emphasis in the veterinary biomedical sciences master's degree, the funding can also go toward projects like starting up a conference. The Nursery Works Conference was created in 2011 and went on to win the 2011 University Professional and Continuing Education Association Central Regional Innovative Non-credit Award.

"Every funding cycle we've had far more requests than we've been able to provide," Stewart said.

Instead of rejecting all those proposals, Stewart says they work with the colleges and departments for additional support. From fiscal years 2009-2011, the Division of Continuing Education funded almost $1 million worth of development projects. The net revenue for those three years, which comes from student enrollment, was more than $3.5 million.

"That pool of money enabled us not only to provide some support and incentive for online program development, but I think it also became the beginning of developing a better planning and management process for program development," Stewart said.

The Division of Continuing Education now has a more efficient system in place to designate funding for programs as well as the ability to offer courses that would otherwise not be available to many students. The result, Stewart said, is dramatically improved quality of courses.

"There is a high demand for distance education and with the ever enhancing capabilities of technology, distance education is a primary way for a land-grant university like Kansas State to fulfill its mission to deliver education resources to its constituencies," Stewart said.

The university's distance education programs currently have students enrolled from all 50 states and 16 different foreign countries.

"Kansas State University is being recognized as one of the most highly-respected, quality distance education programs in the country," Stewart said.