Odessa College has redesigned its majors so it makes more sense for students. The change officially takes effect in the fall.
Vice President for Instruction Valerie Jones said the college kept running into instances where its metamajors were in one area, but the dean for the division was in a different group. This was seen as a chance to reorganize and divide subject areas into schools.
The idea came about by looking at things from the student perspective and asking if there was a change that could be made that would fit better with the student experience.
“Very often education at all levels everywhere does the reverse and figures out what’s going to make our process easier, then figure out how to adapt the students to it. I like that this transition is coming from this is what the students are experiencing, this is how the students are grouped, this is how the students are moving through our process and is there a way for us to change our structure to better fit to that?” Jones said.
The schools include science, technology, engineering and math; business and industry; health sciences; public service and education; and arts and humanities. The transition to schools took effect June 1, Jones said.
For students, Jones said schools will give them a different point of reference for identity.
“Even as a new student, they can say I’m in the school of STEM. I’m in the school of Business and Industry. I do think that will be an attractive thing. It’s not its primary driver, but I think it will be an attractive thing for them,” she said.
“The 60x30TX strategic plan for higher education encourages local creativity in the pursuit of the plan’s goals and targets. By reorganizing around schools that could be connected to meta-majors, Odessa College can encourage students to be better engaged. This leads to improved retention, persistence and graduation, thus fulfilling the goals of 60x30TX,” said Rex Peebles, assistant commissioner for academic quality and workforce, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said at a recent Texas Senate Higher Education Committee hearing that the state has seen a 3.9 percent increase in the number of students completing a certificate or degree from 2016 to 2017.
This is “exactly the annual increase needed to achieve the 2030 goal. Regional and institutional efforts will need to continue to reach the statewide goal,” he said.
Paredes added that setting regional targets is a compelling strategy for several reasons.
“The first is that one size doesn’t fit all. Our 10 higher education regions identified on the www.60x30TX.com website differ by population growth and demographics and are home to different labor markets. Some are net importers of graduates. Others produce more completers than their labor markets can absorb. Some regions produce many certificates, others many master’s degrees. When it comes to the 60x30TX goals, regions are starting in very different places. Institutions within those regions differ dramatically by mission, funding, and student population, just to name a few,” Paredes said in the statement.
On a related topic, one of Odessa College’s next goals is to reach an enrollment of 10,000 students. Jones said the initiative is in the early stages, but it’s been energizing.
When an objective that large is set, Jones said it compels people to think bigger and differently.
“… We have to think bigger about how we’re going to reach the parts of the population that haven’t been served by higher education. It’s been a lot of fun to hear from the community and the whole college body as we bring everybody together to think about the big stuff that may help us connect better … ,” Jones said.
Part of the process, Jones said, is how OC connects with future students and adults. It’s also about reaching people who have not seen higher education as an option, or even something available to them.
“… It’s a passion of mine and many of us to reach that part of our community because the opportunities for the next 20, 30 years of employment are going to depend on them having those credentials of some sort and we might not see it today. If I’m that person who is dreaming of what my next opportunities are, I might look around and say I’m OK. That doesn’t mean my good today is going to be my good 20 years from now. … What experience, what credential I need to have so 20 years from now, I’m still good as things continue to shift,” Jones said.
Jones noted that cost is a common obstacle to higher education, but community colleges are less expensive that four-year universities.
Financial aid, grants and scholarships also are available, she said. Plus OC offers the first class free.
“We’ve done a tremendous job over the last decade of growing our foundation and scholarships available through that. On top of that you have outside scholarship opportunities …” Jones said.