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Virtual College

Hammond Hall 201
600 Park Street
Hays, KS 67601
Phone: 785-628-4291
Toll Free: 800-628-FHSU
Fax: 785-628-4037 

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Virtual College Blog

An online tutoring service helps a virtual college dramatically increase enrollment

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In 1999, Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Hays, Kansas, created the Virtual College, which offers over forty online degrees. One of FHSU’s goals in launching the Virtual College was to give adult learners the opportunity to go back to school.

Within five years, student enrollment in the Virtual College more than doubled, increasing from 839 students in 1999 to 1,920 in 2004. As the distance education program rapidly grew, FHSU needed to find an effective way to support virtual students. Its goal was to offer the same high-quality services for students off campus as it did for students on campus. To that end, FHSU implemented Smarthinking, Pearson’s online tutoring service, in 2002.

Rachel Dolechek, the MBA graduate coordinator, College of Business and Entrepreneurship, includes Smarthinking in her advising process. Of the 160 to 165 MBA students in the College of Business and Entrepreneurship, approximately 100 are virtual students. When Dolechek meets with distance education students, she makes sure they know the resource is available to them, and she mentions it in a newsletter she sends out to her advisees every semester.

At times, students who are struggling come to Dolechek and say, “I don’t know what to do. Should I drop this class?” “One of the first things I ask,” Dolechek remarked, “is ‘have you tried Smarthinking?’”

Dolechek estimates that between 15 to 20 percent of the virtual MBA students in her program use the tutoring services. Within the first few weeks, they tend to realize they need extra help in a foundation course.

For students, the most helpful feature of the online tutoring service is its flexibility. Students have anywhere, anytime access and the ability to schedule live sessions when it is convenient for them, a great asset for adult learners who may be juggling family and job responsibilities along with their academic work. Students can sign up to work with particular tutors, which personalizes the experience for distance education students.

“Smarthinking’s flexibility, the ease of use, and the power of the technology have really been the key to its success.”
—Dennis King, Director of the Virtual College

The online tutoring service offers support in the key areas where students need it, another one of its main benefits. “Most of our courses can fit somewhere into the content areas,” commented Kathleen Cook, the Virtual College online student communication strategist. When there has been a class that is not covered by the service, Pearson has helped the Virtual College find a solution.

In the course of sixteen years, enrollment in the Virtual College has grown more than sevenfold, from 839 students in 1999 to 6,323 students in the fall of 2015. Dennis King, the director of the Virtual College, commented, “Many people make Fort Hays State their destination of choice because of our people of excellence and our programs of distinction. As the tremendous growth in the Virtual College demonstrates, that applies to both our distance education students and our on-campus students.” He added: Smarthinking “helped us grow the Virtual College,” since online tutoring is a service that prospective students find attractive.

Students clearly value the service. From January through August 2015, 778 tutoring sessions were held for a total of 505 hours. On an exit survey covering the period of September 2014 through September 2015, 97 percent of student respondents rated tutor feedback and the tutoring process favorably, and 96 percent said they would recommend Smarthinking to a friend.


For-profit colleges accused of fraud still receive U.S funds

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Top News
The New York Times

The Education Department, despite a crackdown against what it calls “bad actors,” continues to hand over tens of millions of dollars every month to other for-profit schools that have been accused of predatory behavior, substandard practices or illegal activity by its own officials or state attorneys general across the country.  Read more>>

Star Gazette

Mansfield University announced that is has joined the list of schools in Pennsylvania that will move to charging tuition on a per-credit rate, instead of the flat rate it now charges full-time students. Mansfield said its Freeze Individualized Tuition program, FIT, will begin in fall 2016.  Read more>>

Grand Forks Herald

The University of Mary plans to build upon the splash it made in Watford City one year ago by offering more courses in the Oil Patch town. Students who began taking undergraduate business classes there in fall 2014 completed studies this summer. Now, the Catholic university in Bismarck is ramping up its offering, including a master of education program for local teachers.  Read more>>

From UB Magazine
Forecast 2016's biggest higher ed trends

Matt Zalaznick

What's coming next for higher ed technology, campus life and student success? Share your forecast for higher ed's biggest trends with our readers by submitting to University Business's special January 2016 Outlook edition. To participate, please follow the link to fill out a short form.  Read more>>

The Denver Post

A proposed Denver sales tax that is aimed at helping students pay for spiraling college costs has strong supporters behind it, but the ballot measure has been running into friendly fire. Some of that has come from Democratic activists who usually support city tax increases.  Read more>>

The Joplin Globe

Kansas universities traditionally have had the authority to ban guns on their campuses. Pittsburg State University has done so, placing stickers on the doors at building entrances notifying visitors that concealed handguns that are otherwise allowed in the state are prohibited on its campus. But that will change on July 1, 2017, when the university must comply with a 2013 law requiring public colleges and universities to permit concealed weapons on their campuses.  Read more>>

Executive Job of the Day
Vice president for finance and administration

Mount Saint Mary College

Opinion & Analysis

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is the only one of the major four gubernatorial candidates who won't rule out closing a public college or university if elected this fall.  Read more>>


The shift, which happened in 2014 and which the Census Bureau pointed out last week, was a generation in the making. Women have earned the majority of bachelor's degrees granted every year since 1981. As older, less-educated women have died, more educated women have made up a greater share of the population.  Read more>>

The Huffington Post

Uniting higher education and the Franklin Project would create a natural link between the mission and vision of our colleges and universities and our nation's great need for a renewal of citizenship.  Read more>>

The Hechinger Report via NPR

Protected by tenure that prevents them from being dismissed without cause, and with no mandatory retirement age, a significant proportion of university faculty isn't going anywhere. A third are 55 and older, compared with 20 percent of the rest of the workforce, according to the University of Iowa Center on Aging.  Read more>>

Industry News

Two education professors at N.C. A&T have won a total of $2.4M in federal grant money to recruit and train teachers. A&T announced that School of Education faculty members Cathy Kea and Gloria Elliott won $1.2M each from the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.  Read more>>

American Council on Education

ACE has been awarded a contract by the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support to continue and expand its longtime Military Evaluations work aimed at helping service members and veterans gain access to higher education.  Read more>>

Davis and Elkins College

The Davis & Elkins College Board of Trustees has accepted a $25M challenge from James S. McDonnell III and the McDonnell family foundations. The challenge funds and all matching gifts and commitments will be included in the College’s 10-year, $100M Secure the Future Campaign that concludes on June 30, 2018.  Read more>>

Fort Hays re-inventing itself

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By MICHAEL STRAND Salina Journal

 After 15 months as president of Fort Hays State University, Mirta Martin has had plenty of surprises.

But one of the most profound surprises was talking to a person in Dodge City — just 100 miles away — who hadn’t heard about the school.

It should be hard to not know about, considering:

• It set a record enrollment of 14,210 students this fall, up 385 from last year — even as the total enrollment for all five state universities declined by 890.

• It has the second-lowest tuition of any public university in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report.

• It’s preparing to set up colleges in Central and South America, similar to its long-standing operations in China.

• Has for years hosted the Kansas Math and Science Academy, where high school juniors and seniors can live on campus and study at the college.

• 100 percent of its nursing students typically pass their licensing exam on the first attempt.

• Is starting a three-year, $88 million campus improvement project.

• 80 percent of Kansas school superintendents were educated there.

What’s going on out there?

Martin is on an annual statewide tour — a practice inherited from her predecessor, Ed Hammond — to ensure more people know what’s happening out in western Kansas.

What she’s been focused on in her first year is ensuring Fort Hays is preparing students to contribute to the Kansas economy and moving from “a culture of access to a culture of completion.”

Recruiting students remains a priority, she said during a stop Wednesday in Salina, but it’s being joined by an emphasis on keeping students in school and seeing that they graduate with the skills they need — including being ready for jobs that don’t yet exist.

Much of the job of “re-engineering” the university, she said, was put into the hands of what she calls “rank-and-file staff, no deans, no supervisors — and that was deliberate. They know the holes and how things could be better.”

As a bonus, she said, “It’s not my vision, it’s our vision — I’m not the one driving the bus any more.”

Honors College started

Out of that process, this fall the university started an Honors College, open to students with high academic qualifications. It also is providing scholarships as high as full tuition and fees, room and board costs, and $450 a semester for books.

“We made the decision to do that in February, and by then most people have decided where they’re going,” she said.

The university set a “stretch” goal of eight students this fall, and ended up with 16 — with an average ACT score of 31.

Learn to run a business

Fort Hays is also completing an “Entrepreneurship Hall,” that includes housing for 32 students and a first-floor community room that Martin describes as a “great big play room,” with whiteboard walls that students can write on to share ideas.

“People think it’s for business majors, but that’s what we don’t want,” she said. “Artists, scientists, all kinds of people need to understand how to run a business.”

STEM school

The university is also in the process of splitting its College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences into two colleges, one for arts and humanities, and one focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.

“The STEM fields all rely on each other,” Martin said. “And there are only 13 STEM colleges in the U.S., with none in Kansas and none in the Midwest.”

Creating the separate colleges, which requires approval from the Board of Regents, will bring additional distinctiveness to the programs, she said, and will help the college attract more of graduates of its Math and Science Academy.

Recruiting more Hispanics

This summer, Fort Hays is hosting a three-day Hispanic College Institute, aimed at recruiting more Hispanic students — a group with traditionally low college attendance rates, Martin said.

And as attendance at Fort Hays campuses in China slowly has been dropping for several years, the university is looking to move into Central and South America, where demand for higher education is growing.

Demand is different there compared with China, and different from one country to another, she said. In China, the focus was on business education, while Latin American countries want English teachers, tourism and hospitality programs, agribusiness and nursing.

“We’re not going out into the world with a cookie-cutter approach of what we want to teach,” she said. “We’re finding out what they need.”

By MICHAEL STRAND Salina Journal

Feds Announce Move to Prior-Prior Year Income Data on the FAFSA

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In a victory for students and college-access advocates, President Barack Obama today announced that beginning with the 2017-18 school year, prior-prior year (PPY) tax information will be used on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
NASFAA -- along with higher education institutions, policy groups, and lawmakers -- have long advocated for PPY. Using two-years prior tax information on the FAFSA (as opposed to one-year prior information) will increase the form’s accuracy and give families an earlier and more accurate idea of their anticipated financial aid and college costs.
NASFAA has created two explanatory videos to help others understand this important policy change:
    ◦    a quick and simple video your office can share to help students and families better understand how PPY will benefit them; and
    ◦    a more in-depth video explaining why this move to PPY will not only allow students to have earlier information in order to make enrollment decisions, but will also give financial aid administrators some relief from mounting administrative burden and ensure they have more time to spend counseling students.
With the switch to PPY, students and families will be able to:
    ◦    File the FAFSA earlier. As you know, the FAFSA is made available January 1 of each calendar year, yet it is uncommon for a family or individual to be prepared to file an income tax return in the month of January. Under the new PPY system, the 2017-18 FAFSA will be available in October 2016, rather than January 1, 2017, and students can use the PPY’s completed income tax return.
    ◦    More easily submit a FAFSA. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which allows automatic population of a student’s FAFSA with tax return data and decreases the need for additional documentation, can be used by millions more students and families under PPY, since tax data from two-years prior would be readily available upon application.
    ◦    Receive earlier notification of financial aid packages. If students apply for aid earlier, colleges can in turn provide financial aid notifications to students earlier, ensuring that students and families have more time to prepare for college costs. Notifying students earlier of their financial aid packages will also leave more time for one-on-one counseling with students and families.

To maximize the benefits of PPY, NASFAA will be encouraging schools and state grant agencies to also use PPY data on any financial aid application they require. NASFAA urges member institutions to demonstrate support for President Obama’s move to PPY by signing onto a commitment to align their own processes to match the use of PPY on institutional forms.
Moving to PPY has been a fundamental precept of NASFAA’s larger advocacy platform for many years, as it is a single change that will create a ripple of positive implications for students.
NASFAA has already taken actions to begin working with schools, the U.S. Department of Education, state grant agencies, and others to align practices and work toward a smooth transition. Within a few days we will be soliciting volunteers to serve on a PPY Implementation Task Force to work with members in identifying implementation issues, including what processes and procedures throughout the campus will be affected, what consumer information will need to be updated, and how this will affect our financial aid management systems. We are committed to doing all we can to ensure a smooth transition to PPY for schools and students.
Stay tuned to Today's News for PPY developments and updates.
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Why a College Degree is Important

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Check out this great article on why a college degree is important:

Almost 97% of Good Jobs Created since 2010 Have Gone to College Grads

Warning Signs an Online Degree is a Scam

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Over the past couple of months a number private schools have gone out of business, leaving students scrambling.  Fort Hays State University, a public, not for profit school founded in 1902 is one of the most fiscal sound university in the country.  Below is a link to an article which details some of the warning signs associated with schools that are really a scam.

Fort Hays State University Commencement 2015

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Fort Hays State University Commencement 2015 was a great day for all students.  Students traveled from many locations to attend.  The FHSU Virtual College hosted a Meet and Greet on Friday and a Virtual College Graduation Breakfast on Saturday morning.  The events provide a wonderful opportunity to get to know our students.

Here are a few of the news stories from 2015 Fort Hays State University Commencement:

To watch the 2015 Commencement Ceremonies:

 President Martin with Virtual Student

 VC Breakfast 2015

 Vc Meet and Greet


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