Bridging the Pathway From the Masters to a Doctoral Program in Higher Education Through Portfolio Learning Assessment

Bridging the Pathway From the Masters to a Doctoral Program in Higher Education Through Portfolio Learning Assessment

Mette L. Baran (Cardinal Stritch University, USA) and Janice E. Jones (Cardinal Stritch University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5255-0.ch003
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Cardinal Stritch University (CSU) is private Franciscan institution of higher education located in Milwaukee, WI. The university has successfully offered Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service for 20 years. Eight years ago, an additional program was added, namely the Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education. Today about 40% of students enrolled are electing this option. A pathway program to this degree will be offered starting in the fall of 2017 with a new Master of Science in Higher Education Student Affairs Leadership. It is proposed that graduates of this program will be able to opt out of up to three doctoral level courses totaling 11 credits if they decide to complete a portfolio learning that demonstrates the accomplishment of program objectives including students' own perceptions of their academic experiences and learning. This is an incentive to matriculate as many of the SAL graduates into the Doctoral Leadership program in higher education saving students resources.
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The higher education landscape is constantly in flux as local, national, and global forces demand that institutions respond swiftly to change. Smaller tuition driven private institutions, especially, must continuously find ways to remain innovative to stay competitive to ensure vital enrollment levels. While higher education hardly has stayed constant over its 400- year history, Askin and Shea (2016) urge that what is different now, is the speed at which changes are occurring. “For colleges and universities to thrive, change must be proactive and strategic - and must match the pace of the rapidly evolving world in which they exist” (p. 5).

Driving this change is that the traditional students are a thing of the past, today’s college students:

Come from a wide range of backgrounds and bring an equally diverse set of needs. Among college students today, nearly half (40%) are age 25 or older—returning to advance their career or to re-train for a new opportunity. Many students hold full-time jobs while enrolled in classes, one-quarter are parents, and many are the first in their family to attend college. (Gatesfoundation, n.d., para. 1)

Furthermore, Ross-Gordon (2011) notes that there is “high likelihood that they are juggling other life roles while attending school, including those of worker, spouse or partner, parent, caregiver, and community member” (para. 3). The older students are traditionally referred to as (non-traditional students) a term that was introduced more than 35 years ago (Cross, 1981). Their unique circumstances and life demands led higher education institutions to design degree programs around their needs which also led to the rapid expansions of For-Profit institutions and online learning over a ten-year period between 2000 and 2010. “At a time when American public higher education is cutting budgets, laying off people, and turning away students, the rise of for-profit universities has been meteoric” (Wilson, 2010, para. 1). Today, enrollment continues to decline at For-Profit institutions due to the sector’s recent legal challenges; however, online learning continues to grow at public and private institutions. In 2014, a record number of students (5.8 million) were enrolled in online courses, up 3.9% from 2013 (Friedman, 2016).

Preparing students to be independent learners and to enter the workforce as skilled professionals have always been one of the most challenging elements of higher education. This is becoming increasingly more demanding. Administrators and faculty need to rethink their delivery models taking into consideration available technology and resources to best meet the diverse adult learners’ needs. While there is no one standard solution to address the changing demographic data and needs of college students along with declining enrollment, institutions must find solutions to counteract these trends bringing about the most significant and sustainable solutions to these challenges.

Today’s students want to be recognized for each accomplishment and success rather than be rewarded for the number of minutes they have sat in a seat listening to (or pretending to listen to) a lecture note Askin and Shea (2016, p. 16). The outdated concept of Carnegie minutes need to be revisited seeking new ways to provide accreditation to institutions developing new delivery models driven by the demands and needs of the marketplace.

Students naturally seek to maximize their resources, and higher educational institutions have increasingly responded by offering multiple degree options which typically fall into three categories:

  • 1.

    Dual Degree (where two degrees are earned simultaneously and are listed on the diploma, for example, JD/MBA or M.D./Ph.D.).

  • 2.

    Joint Degree (an interdisciplinary approach where two areas or study from two separate departments within the same university or at two different universities (DePaul University/Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science and/or Rush University Medical Center are earned simultaneously).

  • 3.

    Two separate Degrees (students use elective credits toward another degree). (Gobel, 2013).

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