A comparative study to determine factors contributing to the development of off-campus credit programs in small, private, four-year liberal arts colleges

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The purpose of this study was to investigate why small, private, four-year liberal arts colleges implement off-campus credit programs. The focus of the research was to determine the factors responsible for offering off-campus programs in some institutions, while in others, no attempts were made to offer similar programs.

Survey research was the primary method used in the study. Twenty-five colleges which were members of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and which had off-campus programs were paired with an equal number of non-participating colleges based on size, tuition costs and affiliation. Data were gathered from NCES and SACS reports, current college catalogs and from self-designed questionnaires. A response rate above 90 percent was recorded for the mailed questionnaires.

The Chi-Square test of relationship, T-test, and ANOVA techniques were used to analyze the data. All analyses were evaluated at the .05 level of significance.

Data analysis for participating colleges suggested:

(1) Off-campus programs were relatively new, with a majority (87 percent) having been established over the past ten years;

(2) Small, private, liberal-arts colleges were adapting their missions to allow them to serve a new clientele.

(3) The primary leadership within the colleges for the initiation and continuation of off-campus programs were the presidents, deans and the governing boards. A declining enrollment was indicated as a primary reason for going off campus; and

(4) The groups being served most often off campus were managers, public school teachers, ministers, accountants, law enforcement personnel, and those seeking a Baccalaureate degree.

The analysis of the data between the participating and non-participating colleges showed:

(1) The participating colleges experienced more growth than the non-participating group. This modest growth could be traced to off-campus enrollments;

(2) Both groups of colleges had a similar curriculum, but a statistically significant difference existed for the degree in education. The participating colleges had a larger number of institutions with a degree in education;

(3) The participating colleges' mission statements evidenced a more serious commitment to serving the broader community through educational opportunities than did the non-participating group;

(4) A statistically significant difference existed between the two groups regarding the sources of revenue, Federal appropriations, grants and contracts and total revenues. The non-participating group received more revenues from these non-tuition sources;

(5) A statistically significant difference existed for the expenditure categories of academic support, library support, and operations and maintenance; and

(6) No statistical difference was found between the groups for faculty or transportation characteristics or in the number of competitors for off-campus credit programs.