How difficult would it be to start a new college?

Discussion in 'Education, Teaching and related degrees' started by CavTrooper, Sep 7, 2012.

  1. CavTrooper

    CavTrooper Member

    Good folks,
    How difficult is it to open a college and obtain regional accreditation? There is a huge lack of distance history programs, particularly doctoral programs. I think it would be awesome to assemble a group of academic and organizational professionals and put together a school which focuses exclusively on history programs. The school would be highly selective in admissions, provide excellent distance, research oriented academics, and would be very transfer friendly for undergraduate studies. The curriculim for historical studies would be practicum focused, and many classes would revolve around physical visits (or series of visits) to museums and battlefields, after which short research summaries would be provided to substantiate learning. The school would obviously be non-profit, and would provide very affordable education.

  2. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    Find a state with an easy state approval process (and make sure that that state is somewhere in Niorth Central territory).
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 8, 2012
  3. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    Conventional wisdom says that there is a huge lack of programs because there is a huge lack of interest. It's hard to imagine that existing schools wouldn't cash in if there was any evidence of a sustained level of interest. Beyond all that, one of your biggest problems will be figuring out how you'll pay your staff week to week while you're waiting for students to show up. After all, convincing students that they should pay even moderate tuition rates for an unknown, unaccredited degree that will not get them into grad school will be a difficult task. I don't mean to be totally discouraging but the fact is that you'll have to have the answers to these sorts of questions if you're to succeed.
  4. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Why selective admissions, and why non-profit?
  5. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    Ditto that question.

    If you have an upstart college, just FYI, you need $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Where is that going to come from if you turn students away? What students would be interested in a brand spanking new university, having no history to draw from, which simply claims to be worthy of selectivity? Lastly, if your concern is with the lack of available programs, why would you develop a program with limited availability?
  6. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    I'll share my experience considering a similar idea.
    I spent 7 months working about 20 hours per week doing extensive amounts of research into opening a small culinary diploma school. I would have sought national accreditation plus an industry accreditation. In addition, I flew and met with owners/operators of 5 programs with a similar business model. I have 18 years in culinary education plus direct experience starting a culinary degree program inside of a community college; in addition, my husband is also a chef and part time culinary educator- I felt we both had excellent qualifications and could teach the courses until we could become fully operational. It seemed like it was a doable venture....until I looked hard.

    All problems can be traced back to one root problem- getting students who can pay. This is a multi-layer issue, and I won't outline everything here, but in a nutshell, prior to your accreditation, you have to have students who can pay cash or privately finance their education to float you until you can get access to students with gvt money (loans, grants, VA).

    This is limiting in a number of ways. In addition, you have to operate for no fewer than 2 years for even the easiest of national accreditation reviews, have graduates, and placement. (I won't even discuss regional accreditation since that's such an incredible long shot, just look at national first) So for 2 years you're "acting as if" you're fully accredited and running exactly the curriculum you'll use. The difficulty I found (among other things) is that you have to be fully capitalized so you can essentially buy student's admission. Initially, I had an idea of doing only community education programs until I qualified for accreditation review- however- they won't review a different program than what you have run, so you're stuck if you are under capitalized. You need students willing to enroll in an unaccredited program and receive an unaccredited piece of paper and pay you money! That gets you going. Then, they have to complete and begin work. There are strict placement requirements, so your drop outs and non-completers don't count.

    My tipping point was a trip to Colorado where I met 2 owners who were very transparent with me. (I also met with 3 schools that were not very helpful) One owner sought NA after 2 years (his costs in the process exceeded $300,000) and was told to reapply in 2 more years after he had more graduates. *this is a small program, he had 24 students* He needed money to operate, so he decided to stay open and not seek NA. He's been up and running about 8 years and is struggling. (probably more than he let on, his mom was The admissions department) The second owner (A former attorney) opted to stay cash-only but was reconsidering now that they were in their 10th year and had enough full time instructors. Both separately told me they were under-capitalized when they began, and the second owner told me his costs exceeded half-million. That was the end of my dream.

    Your state will be your first point of investigation. You will likely have an entire department that guides you through the process, in Illinois, there is a vocational school application website that I found very helpful. The words you use are all regulated ("credit" for example is regulated) and you must pass extensive inspections before obtaining a license- so you need your facility built and open for inspection, but you can't accept enrollment until you pass. Again, to do it properly costs a VERY large sum of money.

    However, do not interpret my post to be discouraging. I have my "school" essentially in a box and ready to go. Everything is done, all curriculum, cycles, policy, everything. The experience was awesome, and I feel like I could shift my business plan to work in a different arena and make it work (teaching non-professional chefs) but decided that wasn't really where my heart was, and maybe some day I'll play around with that kind of idea. But, my suggestion is to get on the internet and find people doing what you want to do. Get on a plane and go meet them. Find someone with a teacher's heart who will mentor you. I have 2 such people should I decide to go forward. Good luck!
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2012
  7. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    I think it might actually be feasible to do this -- if it was done by (1) an established historical society, and (2) with accreditation through DETC, rather than through a regional accreditor.

    There are already well-established organizations of history enthusiasts in groups like the California Historical Society, or the Society of Civil War Historians. They already promote education and research in their particular niches through journals, meetings, books, etc. So why not add small degree programs as well ? If an established organization like this wanted to promote education and research in their particular niche, like California history or Civil War history, I think they probably could find sufficient funding, expertise, and organization to achieve DETC accreditation (which is much easier to obtain than regional accreditation). Then they could offer low-cost DL bachelor's and master's degrees in their particular specialties, which would even qualify for federal financial aid (no PhDs, because DETC doesn't go there).

    Such degrees might not be as prestigious as traditional RA history degrees, but they would be much more accessible, due to the lower cost and DL orientation. And if such degrees were sponsored by a well-known historical society, the name recognition offered by that society might help to compensate for the lack of RA.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2012
  8. CavTrooper

    CavTrooper Member

    Hey folks! I'm back, was busy all weekend. Wow!! Some great questions, and some awesome feedback. After reading Jennifer's post, I realize that my idea is probably far too much of a long shot. I think instead, I'd like to approach a small, RA accredited school near where I'm from (central PA) and maybe try to initiate distance history programs through their school. If I can assemble a team of history enthusiasts, like those noted in the post above, perhaps we could influence the academic leadership to adopt such programs.

    The reason I mentioned "selective admissions" was simply so the school could attain good rankings in the future, and could develop a prestigious reputation - but after actually learning a bit about the process, I can see that such an idea, at least from the start, would be ludicrous, considering the school would start off as unaccredited.

    Also, as for "non-profit" I think liberal arts degrees such as history are generally perceived by the academic community as being more valuable if gained via non-profit sources. Even if the perception doesn't reflect actual academic quality (my experience with an AMU class in polisci as awesome), it exists nevertheless.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. I think my best bet would be to simply work with an existing school to develop a distance history program.

    Thanks for all the feedback!
  9. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    OK, but how would this be different from any other regionally accredited B&M school that offers graduate-level history programs by DL ?
    Like for example:

    -- University of Nebraska Kearney -- online History MA

    -- Sam Houston State University (Texas) -- online MA in history

    -- Austin Peay State University (Tennessee) -- online MA in military history

    -- Norwich University (Vermont) -- MA in history online

    -- Western Kentucky University -- online MA in history

    -- University of Memphis -- online MA in history

    -- Louisiana Tech -- eLearning MA in history

    -- Wayland Baptist University -- online MA in history

    Is there really a shortage of regionally accredited, B&M schools with online history programs ?
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2012
  10. CavTrooper

    CavTrooper Member

    Caldog, you are correct, there are a number of History programs available on both the undergrad and grad levels. AMU has several concentrations even, which is cool. However, there are no doctoral programs, and even though a handful of schools offer master's, few offer them with varied concentrations. Approaching a college with the intent of initiating a new historical studies department dedicated solely to the idea of offering quality, diverse history programs would expand options for those interested in the subject. However, as noted above, perhaps the current lack of such programs is telling regarding the lack of demand. So, the entire idea could be a bad one - you do bring up some great points.
  11. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    I have nothing against the idea of a DL program that specializes in providing quality, affordable graduate degrees in history. On the contrary, I think there would be a market for this. In my opinion, the biggest problem with the existing options is simply that they cost too much. Lots of people have an interest in history, but it's hard to justify spending $10,000 to $20,000+ on a graduate degree that has relatively limited professional value.


    In theory, there could be ways to offer quality history DL degrees that would be significantly less expensive. For example:

    -- DL degrees can be accredited by DETC at relatively low cost.

    -- DL degrees can be offered in small specialized niches, which means that relatively few instructors are needed.

    -- DL programs can be free of the expense of B&M infrastructure.


    Unfortunately, none of these cost-saving advantages would apply to the kind of program that you are considering:

    -- You want regional accreditation, not DETC. So the costs would go up.

    -- You want your program to be diverse, not specialized. This means more staff with expertise in different areas. So the costs would go up.

    -- You want to offer your program through a B&M school, rather than as a pure DL program. But any B&M school will use the DL program to help subsidize their B&M expenses. So the costs would go up.


    I think the market would respond to a DL history program that offered quality history degrees at lower costs than the existing options. But the costs won't go down unless compromises are made, at least initially.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2012
  12. rebel100

    rebel100 New Member

    I actually like your concept of teaching at the battlefield...I think this idea has merit. In fact you could expand it quite a bit by going global. I would think however that you might build a more marketable product by seeking to create/operate this concept within the field of educational tourism. you could seek both tourist who buy the concept of understanding say...Antietam or Shiloh, or Wounded Knee by meeting up with an expert and touring the site. These could be folded into existing coursework at essentially any college...AMU/APU actually sounds like a great partner though I have no idea if they would be interested.

    You can sell people swims with dolphins, a day as a race car driver, etc... I'm sure you could sell plenty on an educational idea like you have here. I just don't see a college built around it.
  13. CavTrooper

    CavTrooper Member

    Caldog - as always, very valid commentary. I think you're correct that the main issue is cost.... history is an awesome topic but for many the ROI just doesn't justify studying it. Oh, when I said "diverse" I used the wrong term - I did mean specialized, as in, a diverse number of history specializations. For example, an MA in History with specialization in Civil War Studies, or Revolutionary War Studies, or Classical Greek Studies or whatever.

    Rebel - good input. Once I thought about the battlefield/museum concept I was fascinated by it, espcially after a recent visit to Williamsburg. Practical, hands on experiential learning, coupled with short academic research papers would be a powerful and cost effective way to drive history education.
  14. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    OK, but the point is still the same -- you would presumably need a lot of faculty to make this work. You would need some faculty with expertise in Civil War history, others with expertise in Revolutionary War history, others with expertise in Classical Greek history, etc. That's costly.

    The way to keep costs down would be to start with a single, popular specialization -- say Civil War history. Then you only need a handful of well qualified instructors to start with. You could branch out into other specialties, and hire additional faculty, once the school is successful and growing. The point is to start small and keep expenses low at the beginning, while the school is building a reputation.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2012
  15. learnwhatyoulove

    learnwhatyoulove New Member

    It is necessary before the college admission...
  16. learnwhatyoulove

    learnwhatyoulove New Member

    It is necessary before the admissions...
  17. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Keeping in mind that what I attempted was completely different, I think you should always dig in and try. This world is full of back-seat drivers. Give it a go!
  18. AdamJLaw

    AdamJLaw New Member

    I think it would be very hard. I watched a documentary once that talked about investors purchasing schools with accreditation so they can then open online programs. They don't need to go through all the hoops and can hit the ground running. However, think about how much work is involved in a college. Financial aid, career services, course development, human resources, faculty, facilities, administration.....I've never run a college and I know there is more to it than I've just listed.

  19. Princeofska

    Princeofska New Member

    There are no PhD programs in History online because the receiver of these would be laughed out of academia. Sorry to be blunt, but it is true. History is one of the most stubborn discipline of them all, a PhD from an online school would never get hired into a full time position. This would be a "show off" degree, something not useable to attain further ground in one's career - thus, there would not be enough students interested.

    The history field will not change any time soon because there are literally 100s of PhDs from ranked B&M schools that cannot find work because there are not enough jobs. There is no reason to take an online PhD. These PhDs are already succumbing to starting salaries in the 30s (most having twice as much debt as that yearly salary), so even coming in on the cheap is not going to work in this instance. Might as well be a manager at Wendys.

    History is about the worst thing one can get a PhD in (unless it is out of love). I would say Philosophy and Basket Weaving is the only disciplines worse in this economy.

    Sorry to be a bearer of bad news, but I am very familiar with the current job market and the perception of online degrees in history.
  20. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    ?? interesting answer. Oh wait, no it wasn't.

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