(PODCAST): Sue Talley’s story and the role of women in IT

January 16, 2015

In this episode of Education Matters, I spoke with Dr. Sue Talley, Capella’s dean of technology. Sue’s journey into information technology is unique, as she actually started her career as a high school English teacher. It’s a good story – Sue worked at Apple and learned a lot from the late Steve Jobs; she also led the creation of a doctoral online program at Pepperdine University, and then enrolled in said program.

In this podcast, we also discuss the presence of women in information technology. Sue pointed out that our technology programs at Capella actually have a higher percentage of women than most programs in the country. Between 35 and 40 percent of our technology programs are female, while most programs in the country are struggling to have 10 or 20 percent. We discuss why this may be, and how Capella continues to support this population of our learners.

Listen to Sue’s story here.


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(PODCAST): Introducing the Education Matters podcast

January 14, 2015

The Education Matters blog is getting a new partner in 2015: the Education Matters podcast! Why a podcast? I’ve been a big fan of podcasts for years… Bill Simmons, Mark Maron, Effectively Wild, Nerdist, the Orvis Fly-Fishing podcast, etc. It’s a great way to tell stories. An old boss of mine used to say that every person has a book’s worth of stories in them and, if you care enough to hear them, they’re almost always interesting. Capella has a lot of interesting stories and we want to tell them in a compelling way. (For the record: I’m not doing this because I was inspired by Serial; I haven’t listened to it yet but I will.)

I want to start off with a bang, and what’s more exciting than financial aid policy? Right?!? Seriously, it’s an important issue, and we’ve got a lot to say. In our inaugural episode, I talk with Jillian Klein, Capella’s director of public policy about federal financial aid: what questions adult learners should ask and rethinking the system we have here in the U.S. Big thanks to Jillian for being willing to be our initial guinea pig.

We’re going to have a lot of conversations with learners, graduates, faculty, staff, and external thought leaders over the next few months. If you have ideas about interviews you’d like to hear on the podcast, send me a note on Twitter at @mikebuttry1.

You can find the first episode of our podcast here. I hope you enjoy it!

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Capella approved to participate in latest round of experimental sites

January 13, 2015

This round of experimental sites, announced in July, will allow at least 40 colleges to experiment with competency-based education and prior learning assessment, granting them a waiver from certain rules that govern federal financial aid.

Capella was approved by the Department of Education to participate in the three Experimental Site Initiatives for which we applied: Aid for Prior Learning Assessments; Disbursements to Students Enrolled in Competency Based Education” and the Limited Direct Assessment (“Hybrid”) experiment.

We’re very excited to partner with the Department on shaping future higher education policy.

For more information on the experimental sites, please see Paul Fain’s article in Inside Higher Ed.

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Balancing the Funding Equation: A Simplified College Financial Support Model

Late last year, the Lumina Foundation hosted a challenge soliciting proposals for how we might rethink the student financing system in the US. As our country prepares to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, it is a great time to be asking the community about ways to reimagine the financial aid system. Capella University’s submission, entitled “Balancing the Funding Equation: A Simplified College Financial Support Model,” built upon the themes of simplicity, transparency and shared responsibility.

Capella’s paper highlighted the need for a simplified system where students are able to understand their enrollment and repayment options, with more work being done to get information to prospective students earlier in the process. Moving to an aid application model built on the usage of prior-prior year data would help students better prepare for their college costs, and cost and outcomes data provided to prospective students needs to be applicable to all students – adult, returning, working professionals, students with military commitments and more.

Capella also recommended condensing the current aid system into a one grant/one loan/one work study program model, where funds are flexible enough to cover a variety of enrollment patterns. Student loans should have no hidden fees and schools should have the authority to limit borrowing. The Federal Work Study program should be expanded, with the funding allocation formula updated to ensure equity across schools and help limit student loan borrowing. Federal student loan repayment should be simplified, with one traditional and one income-driven repayment plan, consisting of an auto-enroll function for severely delinquent borrowers.

Today’s higher education funding system needs to be rooted in privacy-protected, risk-adjusted outcomes data across all institutions, in order to understand  what returns taxpayers are getting for their investment in higher education, and to make sound policy decisions. Access to this data would allow for the creation of a Pell Grant risk-sharing system, based on the percentage of students eligible for Pell Grants who stop without graduating (or returning to school) within two years. This approach not only requires financial buy-in from schools where low-income students are not graduating, but also accounts for schools serving high-risk populations.

Capella is glad to have joined in the conversation around rethinking student financing. There is no single approach to this problem, but there are many practical and reasonable steps that can be taken to make the system work more effectively. We look forward to continuing the dialog as higher education funding is of growing concern in this country.

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President Scott Kinney participates in The New York Times’ Schools for Tomorrow Conference

September 12, 2014

Today’s guest post is from Capella University President Scott Kinney. 

This week, I was honored to be a part of the New York Times’ Schools for Tomorrow conference in New York.

I participated in a panel on the state of the online university and what lies ahead for online education. Joining me on the panel were Dr. Robert Mendenhall, president and CEO of Western Governors University, Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, and Rafael Bras, provost of Georgia Institute of Technology. The panel was moderated by David Leonhardt, editor of The Upshot of the New York Times.


Much of the panel’s discussion focused on the potential of competency-based programs, specifically the opportunity that programs like Capella’s FlexPath offer to reduce cost and time and improve outcomes. We also talked about the need to improve the alignment of educational outcomes to the needs of employers, and the ability of online programs to personalize learning and utilize data to improve learner success. The full panel session is available here.

Another highlight of the conference was a discussion between David Leonhardt and Ted Mitchell, Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education, about the Department’s plan to create a college rating system that, in addition to other metrics, assesses value for the tuition dollar. Mr. Mitchell gave a shout out to Capella for being a leader of the innovation movement, and for participating in the experimental site initiative. The segment on innovation starts at minute 19:59, and Capella is specially called out at minute 21:47.

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