Thursday, October 23, 2014

Welcome, new Go Back to Get Ahead students!

This new semester begins with the largest Charter Oak student body in our history. Our enrollment is up 30%, and many of those new students arrived here as part of the state's Go Back to Get Ahead program. So I want to start this entry by welcoming our new students to Charter Oak and welcoming back all of our continuing students.

It is very important to me and to our staff to check in and see how all of you are progressing. While it is wonderful to welcome such a large group of students to the College, we measure our success by how many of you succeed in completing your degree programs. By now, you have worked your way through your first courses and should have a sense of how both you and we are doing. Please share your insights with me.

I am curious about what you have been noticing about your courses, your instructors, our advising staff, and all the ancillary services we provide including eTutoring, Star Fish alerts, online library resources, orientation courseware, and Call Center support. How did your interactions with Admissions, the Registrar, and of course, Financial Aid go? We spend a great deal of our time and resources setting up these supports, and we are committed to continually improving them.

We also try very hard to produce marketing materials that provide an honest picture of Charter Oak, so my next question is for our newer students. Is the College meeting your initial expectations? Did the reality of Charter Oak match the perception you had from our website and our ads? If you are close to graduating, are you looking forward to being a Charter Oak alum?

Regarding tuition, how did the financial process go? Were your bills easy to understand? Were you able to pay them, sign up for payment plans, and generally navigate our business tools? And for those students close to finishing, was the price you paid worth the learning you acquired?

I wish I could meet you all so I try to use this blog to offer some insights into what we are working to accomplish. I would very much like to know whether we are providing you with the tools to accomplish what you are working to do. Please take a moment to give me some feedback. I will read everything that arrives, share your ideas with our staff and seek to find resolutions to any challenges you may have had or are experiencing.

Thank you for choosing Charter Oak. We succeed when you succeed.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Charter Oak Rising: Fall 2014

Another new semester begins, and for Charter Oak this is one for the record books.  I have written in this blog about the Go Back to Get Ahead program that the Governor and the System asked us to run.  You know that we developed the project plan between the Governors’ State of the State speech in early February and our launch date of June 2nd.  Well the fruits of those labors have arrived.  To continue my metaphor, the College has been engaged in some pretty heavy lifting for the past eight months, and that work has delivered some truly amazing results.
First, our story: College enrollment is up 30% over last fall at this same moment.  And the number of credits that students have registered for is up 40%.  Let those numbers sink in for a second.  Now let’s look at just the past two months.  In July-August of 2012, 279 students matriculated; in 2013, 270 students matriculated; but during July-August of this year 503 students matriculants (of which 191 were GBTGA students).  That is an 86% increase in matriculated students over the same two month period in either of the past two years.
On the system level, our efforts have produced 6,381 inquiries that became 3,618 referrals, and then 1,250 applicants.  As of today, the system has enrolled 825 students toward our ultimate goal of 1500. In simpler language, our advertising efforts produced over 6,000 interested students.  Well over half of these inquiries asked to be referred to one of our 17 schools, and then 35% of that pool applied for Admission.  So far, nearly 60% of the Applicants have enrolled.  These are very impressive results, and they are gaining national attention.
So it is safe to say several things about this fall.  First, everyone at Charter Oak is thrilled that we have grown so dramatically. Second, the ConnSCU system is very pleased with our leadership and successful management of the Go Back to Get Ahead program. You can expect that we will be asked to take a leadership position in other projects as the system evolves.  Third, the staff is very tired but very satisfied with their efforts and thrilled others are discovering the Charter Oak secret!  And finally, we aren’t done with this growth quite yet.  We have another session that begins in late October, and we expect to see more GBTGA enrollments between now and then.
Ultimately, this growth means that more returning students will finally achieve their dream of obtaining a college degree.  And this is what truly makes this moment special. 

As always, if you have questions, advice, or just want to let me know how you feel, you can post to this blog or email me at

Ed Klonoski, President
Charter Oak State College

Monday, February 10, 2014

Keeping Charter Oak at the Leading Edge of Higher Education

[This article originally appeared in the Winter/Spring 2014 edition of Connections, the Charter Oak State College Newsletter]

With the beginning of another new year there are a variety of items I want to share with you. The most important item has to do with the challenges facing the entire higher education landscape. As I have said before, things are getting harder for all of us. There is increasing pressure on colleges to improve our outcomes (both graduation rates and graduate employment), reduce our prices, and increase our enrollments. The world wants us to be faster, cheaper, and better.

As you read this, there are four national conversations that I will be participating in that bear on these demands. In early December, I joined the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s new Commission On Quality Assurance and Alternative Higher Education. My role is to talk about noncollegiate assessments (badges and CCAP). In January I delivered a plenary session at CHEA’s annual conference called Innovation, Disruption and the Status Quo: What Do We Want for Accreditation? My talk was about Education Without College: What Is It? Is It Desirable? Can It Last? I have also been asked to participate in a conversation about the link between college and employers by the Aspen Institute. In early February I will serve on a panel at the EDUCAUSE conference in New Orleans to discuss Strategic Innovation and Institutional Collaboration.

All of these engagements reflect two important themes: Higher Education is undergoing remarkable changes and Charter Oak has experience in those elements that are changing. I have told you that we are working to help the U.S Department of Education re-think its Title IV financial aid regulations, and we have just heard that the department is going to request ideas for experimental sites that can explore those new ideas. Charter Oak has been collaborating with Lumina Foundation and a set of institutions that are interested in competency-based learning to create An Experiment in Hybrid, or Mixed-Modality, Programs Using Competency-Based Education. This work seems to be moving to the next level and we are excited about submitting an application to be an experimental site. If we are selected, our students would be able to use their financial aid for portfolios and tests as well as online courses.

And finally, there is a movement right here in Connecticut around our Go Back to Get Ahead initiative. Board of Regents President Gray is committed to moving this project forward. In early Spring we hope to release letters to 100,000 Connecticut residents with credits from ConnSCU institutions but no credential. Charter Oak will be responsible for moving these students forward toward successful degree completion.

You might ask, what does all this activity have to do with me? Well, it’s all designed to keep Charter Oak at the leading edge of higher education, and in the minds of those who award grants for new initiatives and funding. These efforts are part of our commitment to making college available and affordable to as many adults as possible.

So you can see that there is a great deal of work ahead of us. If we perform as I know we can, you should see us in the news, our student enrollments should increase, and our approach to adult education should gain ground in Connecticut and across the nation. This is the work we were invented to do 40 years ago, and we are thrilled to be asked to do it. I will keep you posted. Please drop me an email anytime, I enjoy hearing from you and sharing your progress with the rest of the staff.

Ed Klonoski, President
Charter Oak State College