Southern Regional Education Board Launches HBCU-MSI Course Sharing Consortium

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To help students cross the graduation finish line, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) announced an online course-sharing consortium for several historically black public and private colleges and universities (HBCUs) as well as other Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) in five southern states.

SREB is a non-partisan, non-profit organization focused on improving education at all levels in its 16 Southern member states.

“I deeply believe in the value of collaboration, especially between small, vastly underfunded institutions,” said Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, president of Benedict College, a private HBCU in South Carolina and one of the original members. of the consortium. “We can have a course with only three students registered, which is not profitable. But a course-sharing agreement allows that student to take a course at another institution to stay on track for graduation. We see this as a student support and retention tool.

SREB Consortium courses will be fully considered in student GPAs, financial aid programs, and graduation requirements at their home institutions. Taking shared online courses will also not affect the cost of student attendance.

“Students could take advantage of this to create new specializations in their curricula,” said Dr. Stevie L. Lawrence II, vice president for post-secondary education at SREB. “Institutions could add majors that match regional and industry needs, but this would not traditionally be offered. From SREB’s point of view, we are very enthusiastic about our ability to bring institutions together around this idea.

The consortium was born from the SREB HBCU-MSI collaboration, a network of HBCUs and other Southern MSIs seeking to improve student success. The inspiration for the courseshare idea came from a similar partnership piloted in the winter of 2021 between Benedict College and Dillard University, the two HBCUs.

Through this trial program, Benedict and Dillard seniors who needed up to six credit hours to graduate in the spring of 2022 could take an accelerated online course. More than 90% of the students who participated in the Dillard-Benedict partnership ended up graduating this spring.

“If it weren’t for these classes in December, I wouldn’t be graduating on Friday,” said Bilaysia Deloach, a 20-year-old Benedict College student who is graduating this week, a year ahead of schedule. .

Deloach started at Benedict with plenty of high school credit to graduate early, and she became determined to finish in May 2022 to save money. But in the fall of 2021, she discovered that some courses for her major would not be offered at Benedict until the following year, delaying her schedule.

Yet, through course sharing, Deloach took a crash course online through Dillard in the winter of 2021. This course sharing pilot deal was supported by a grant from the United Negro College Fund, which provides scholarships for black students. and scholarship funds to 37 private HBCUs.

“I think all HBCUs should make this opportunity available to all students,” Deloach said. “Some of us don’t want to stay in college for longer when we don’t have to. This way you can avoid student debt and financial hardship from your parents by getting your graduate earlier if you can.

Deloach added that Benedict’s administrators checked on her during the winter course to make sure she had what she needed. Lawrence noted that the SREB Consortium aims to provide the same level of support for students that he says is typical of the HBCU culture.

“HBCUs provide this nurturing environment both in and out of the classroom, which we also want to bring into the consortium,” Lawrence said. “As Dr Artis did at Benedict, we can work to ensure that students connect to their classes and have the support they need, such as tutoring services, to go the extra mile and ensure their success.”

Early entrants include Benedict College in South Carolina; Albany State University in Georgia; Clinton College in South Carolina; Fort Valley State University in Georgia; Langston University in Oklahoma; College of Southeast Arkansas in Arkansas; and Texas Southern University in Texas. Other members will be announced in the coming months.

The consortium will be managed by Acadeum, a software company.

Dr. Patrice Glenn Jones, executive director of online education and programs at Alabama State University, a public HBCU, highlighted how this consortium could also make HBCUs and other MSIs more accountable to students on campus as well. than to other institutions.

“I’m excited about how this consortium could make HBCUs their online instructional design game,” said Jones, who specializes in virtual learning. “Students can take a course on another campus doing something better, and then they could come back to their home institution to advocate for a stronger academic experience. It uplifts us all. It is a step in the right direction. »

Jones added that consortia for student services in addition to academics could be the next frontier.

“Maybe a campus does a better job of helping students get financial aid or enough food to eat,” she noted. “Because for HBCUs to survive, we have to work together. That’s what’s so important and profound to me about this job.

Rebecca Kelliher can be contacted at rkelliher@diverseeducation.com.

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