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Q&A | Partnering for Success: Consortium Moves Education Forward

Q&A | Partnering for Success: Consortium Moves Education Forward

Written by Steve Adams Editor in Chief, University Outlook
Posted in Admissions, Leadership on July 31, 2013

Whether one is a working adult who wants to pursue higher education while continuing to work full time, a corporate leader who wishes to promote education and professional development within an organization, or a college counselor who wants to inform adult students about transfer opportunities, there is a consortium of southern California institutions that has been connecting nontraditional students with their educational options for more than 20 years.

The Consortium of Southern California Colleges and Universities (CSCCU), a not-for-profit alliance of fully accredited institutions of higher learning, serves as a single source for a large array of local and distance learning options. Formed in 1992 as a unique collaborative marketing and recruiting endeavor, founding member schools include Azusa Pacific University, California Lutheran University, Loyola Marymount, National University, Pepperdine University, Pierce College, University of La Verne, University of Redlands, Vanguard University and Webster University. The consortium now comprises more than 70 public and private universities and colleges.

University Outlook editor Steve Adams recently had the opportunity to sit with Alan Sleiman, president of the CSCCU board of directors, for a Q-and-A to discuss the consortium and its members’ common goal of developing partnerships to better serve nontraditional students.

What is the CSCCU and its ultimate goal?

We are an organization of representatives, counselors and admissions specialists from colleges and universities throughout southern California. And our goal is simple: We believe that working adults can achieve their educational needs while maintaining their full-time jobs and busy personal lives. Our goal is to help them find their best educational options.  

How does the consortium view its purpose in attaining this goal?

I’d say the primary purpose of the consortium is to connect working adults, their employers and their college counselors with accredited schools that offer programs designed to meet their unique educational and scheduling needs. In other words, to inform the community about the many educational opportunities offered by our school members. And our member institutions do a great job working hard to cater to the unique needs of these adult students by offering evening, weekend and online degree programs.

You mention employers of adult students as well. How do they figure into the mix?

Basically, we seek to establish an ongoing dialogue between institutions of higher learning and leaders in business and industry in the region. As a result, the outcome of this dialogue will lead to the development of educational programs that are increasingly responsive to the needs of both employers and their employees. This eventually contributes to the economy. It’s a way for private and public colleges and universities to enlighten working adults and corporations about available educational opportunities.

Who are some of the companies and organizations that the consortium has worked with over the years?

Oh my, there are dozens and dozens. And our participating organizations run the gamut. We’ve worked with numerous large companies in aerospace, insurance, health care, manufacturing, insurance, retail … you name it. Many of the largest corporations have a huge presence in SoCal and are sources of lots of opportunities to serve adult students. We’ve also worked with several city and county organizations like police, fire and public utility departments and even federal entities like the Postal Service and Navy.

So how exactly do the employees themselves benefit from the CSCCU?

There are many, many education opportunities for working adults in southern California. Our membership has swelled to more than 70 schools, including many of the Cal State University campuses. However, for anyone researching the programs best suited to meet their individual educational goals and scheduling requirements – whether they are working in a full-time job or not – it can be a time-consuming and often intimidating process. The consortium can expedite and simplify this process by serving as a single resource designed to quickly connect them with all their options.

How does the consortium reach out to these employees and employers to spread the word?

The most dynamic way for us to reach out to employees is by organizing education fairs at their company’s worksite. There, we provide employees not only information from many member institutions but also free access to our online database of schools and colleges that offer degree programs designed for working adults. Employees can search this database for options and then connect with counselors from each program. It’s a great, efficient resource.

What exactly goes on when you conduct an education fair?

Well, there are no carnival rides or deep-fried Twinkies at our fairs! We basically assemble representatives from about 20 or so colleges and universities at a corporate or community location. Each school has its own table to display brochures and other program materials, and prospective students can gather information and speak with counselors from the participating institutions. The fairs are free and typically held in company cafeterias, corporate lobbies or in other areas easily accessible to employees. We hold them on workdays, and they usually last for about two or three hours.

What is involved in setting up an education fair? 
Does it require much effort on the part of the company hosting it?

Not a lot. The host organization or company is basically just responsible for scheduling the date and time for the fair, providing the location, furnishing the room with tables and chairs, and promoting it to employees. The consortium does the rest. We are responsible for contacting and inviting all school representatives and providing a coordinator who will work as a liaison between the fair host and the CSCCU. And if they request it, we will also assist the host with whatever preparations and promotional efforts they may need help with for the event.

It’s an obvious benefit for adult workers, but how does an organization itself benefit from hosting an education fair?

If anything, it’s an easy way for a company or organization to demonstrate its interest in higher education and professional development for its employees. It not only creates additional good will with the staff by showing its commitment to their development but also provides an avenue to improve their skills and knowledge, making them more valuable employees. And isn’t that what lifelong learning is all about? Continued improvement?

For additional information on the CSCCU, contact the consortium at exec@edfair.org.

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