NYU’s Alternate Pathways to A Top-Tier Degree – Part 1:

Changing Higher Ed podcast 197 with host Dr. Drumm McNaughton and guest Dr. Douglas Harrison

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Changing Higher Ed 197 NYU’s Alternate Pathways to A Top-Tier Degree - Part 1 with host Dr. Drumm McNaughton and guest Douglas Harrison
Changing Higher Ed Podcast | Drumm McNaughton | The Change Leader

5 March · Episode 197

NYU’s Alternate Pathways to A Top-Tier Degree - Part 1

26 Min · By Dr. Drumm McNaughton

NYU innovates higher education for non-traditional students with flexible, inclusive pathways and career-focused degrees, addressing the needs of millions.


NYU is responding to the large U.S. population that needs and wants affordable and flexible higher education that meets them where they are by creating unconventional pathways to top-tier degrees.

In this episode of Changing Higher Ed® podcast, Dr. Drumm McNaughton is joined by Dr. Doug Harrison, the head of New York University’s Applied Undergraduate Studies program at its School for Professional Studies, to discuss how NYU has built structures and processes that create alternative pathways for first-gen and low socioeconomic students that enable them to get an NYU degree.


Serving the 30 to 40 Million “Some College, No Degree” Population

NYU’s School of Professional Studies stands as a significant yet often overlooked component of the university’s dedication to access, equity, and inclusion. This commitment manifests across a myriad of programs and schools, particularly focusing on working adults, individuals looking to reskill or upskill, and professionally oriented students at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

The Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies offers unique opportunities for students to pursue non-traditional pathways to higher education. This division is tailored for those who have taken a break between high school and college, aiming to provide a supportive environment where students can forge their optimal route to a college degree. This approach is especially relevant for the “some college, no degree” demographic, which represents a significant portion of the U.S. higher education market, encompassing 30 to 40 million individuals.

A key aspect of their mission is to assist students who have had varied and often unsuccessful experiences with post-secondary education. By recognizing and maximizing the value of their diverse transfer credits, they enable these students to expedite their journey to degree completion, reducing both the time and financial burden involved.


The Introduction of NYU’s Associate Degrees

The division offers associate degrees, a rarity among elite research universities, further underscoring NYU’s commitment to creating diverse and accessible educational pathways. These programs are designed to be financially accessible, particularly for Pell and TAP-eligible students, allowing them to pursue associate degrees at no cost. These associate degrees are designed to be stackable into bachelor’s degrees, providing a seamless transition for students wishing to further their education.

Moreover, recognizing the diverse needs and constraints of their student body, they have developed online degree programs to accommodate those who cannot adhere to a traditional class schedule due to work or family commitments. Through these initiatives, NYU strives to meet students where they are, tailoring their degree pathways to accommodate as wide a range of circumstances as possible, thereby reinforcing their commitment to inclusivity and accessibility in higher education.


An Innovative Approach to Transfer Credits

The efficacy of an educational institution’s curriculum architecture is paramount in its capacity to assimilate a broad spectrum of transfer credits. Merely stating the acceptance of a specific number of credits, such as 80, does not suffice. Instead, it is essential to design a curriculum that can maximally incorporate these credits. A strategic shift towards offering a reduced number of bachelor’s degrees is being implemented to enhance this capability.

The rationale behind this approach stems from the observation that an extensive array of bachelor’s degree programs, each tailored to specific career or disciplinary areas, complicates the process of accepting transfer credits. This complexity is magnified for students who have attempted multiple programs at different institutions, accumulating a diverse set of credits across various fields such as psychology, information technology (IT), and organizational behavior.

A curriculum focused on a singular academic vertical, like computer science, may not accommodate the wide range of non-technical and diverse transfer credits students bring. As a consequence, these credits often get relegated to elective status, compelling students to undertake additional courses to meet the stringent requirements of their chosen degree path.

To address this issue, the institution is moving towards offering broader, operationally defined credentials, such as those in applied technology. Within these broader fields, students can pursue specializations in areas like data science, cybersecurity, emergent technologies, and financial technology (FinTech), allowing for a curriculum that aligns with their career aspirations while maximizing the applicability of their transfer credits across disciplines.

This approach involves both policy and operational decisions regarding the extent of credit acceptance and necessitates tactical and architectural adjustments to the curriculum. Such changes are vital for creating educational pathways that are both flexible and conducive to the varied academic backgrounds and career goals of students.


Addressing the Accreditation 25 Percent Curriculum Change Rule

Incorporating specializations into academic programs offers a strategic advantage by aligning with accreditation requirements, which often necessitate a substantive curriculum change if modifications exceed 25% of the original content. This approach is particularly relevant in the context of the evolving demands of the post-secondary education ecosystem, which seeks to address the degree completion challenge and contribute to economic and social transformation by meeting students’ diverse needs.

In regions like New York, introducing or altering concentrations within a curriculum requires state approval, a process that can extend over two years to ensure academic integrity and quality. Although these regulatory frameworks aim to maintain high standards, they inadvertently slow down the adaptation of curricula to the rapidly changing demands of the workforce and the economy, thereby affecting access and equity.

To reduce the impact of regulatory constraints and adapt more swiftly to industry changes, institutions are shifting towards specializations that do not require formal state approval because they are not transcripted in the traditional sense. This flexibility allows institutions to update their offerings in response to immediate industry trends without compromising academic quality, rigor, and integrity.

Furthermore, this strategy includes issuing digital credentials for specializations, providing students with evidence of their skills and knowledge that is immediately recognizable and valuable to employers. Digital credentials articulate the specific skills acquired through the program, offering a clearer indication of the student’s capabilities than traditional transcript entries. This modern approach ensures that educational institutions can rapidly respond to changes in business, industry, and technology, making the credentials more relevant and beneficial to both students and employers.


Apprenticeship Degrees and Work Degree Credits

This fall, NYU initiated its inaugural partnership for apprenticeship degrees at the associate level, with plans to expand this offering in the future. This initiative reflects its strategic commitment to address the needs of students seeking career-relevant skills that offer economic and social resilience.

The traditional model of credentialing is evolving, with the industry favoring a skills-forward approach. To align the curriculum with this shift, it is imperative to maintain close relationships with employers and sectors driving economic growth, ensuring programs effectively meet their needs.

Apprenticeship degrees, a relatively new concept in the U.S. and especially rare among selective or elite institutions, represent a pioneering effort in post-secondary education. These programs are designed in collaboration with employers to address workforce demands, focusing on roles that are either emerging or in high demand and aiming to attract a more diverse pool of learners. By integrating employees as students within these structures, they facilitate a dual role where the student gains practical experience while earning academic credit.

This model involves direct collaboration with employers to map job-specific deliverables into our curriculum and training supervisors to effectively mentor apprentices. This ensures that the completion of work-based deliverables translates into academic credits—specifically, 18 credits towards a 30-credit associate degree, significantly accelerating their educational journey.

Alongside their job duties, apprentices complete additional coursework with the institution to fulfill their degree requirements, leading to professional advancement opportunities such as promotions or salary increases.

This approach not only enriches the student’s professional development but also strengthens the alignment between educational institutions and industry needs.


Strategies for Attracting and Enrolling the Ideal Students

A comprehensive strategy is employed to attract a diverse student body, particularly focusing on adult learners, professional learners, and individuals with some college experience but no degree. This approach is tailored to meet the unique needs and preferences of these potential students, recognizing that their pathways to higher education often begin online, diverging from traditional student journeys.

Online Program Presentation and SEO Optimization: A key component of this strategy is the exemplary online presentation of programs. Acknowledging that the target demographic frequently starts their search for educational opportunities on the internet, significant investment is made in search engine optimization (SEO). This ensures prominent visibility in search results for terms related to degree completion, enhancing the institution’s ability to attract initial interest.

Comprehensive Marketing and Engagement Strategy: Beyond optimizing for search engines, a holistic marketing strategy encompasses admissions and enrollment management processes. Following initial engagement, a variety of tactics are employed to maintain interest. This includes targeted social media advertising through partnerships, aiming to keep programs visible and top-of-mind for potential students across various digital platforms.

Prompt Response and Personalized Outreach: Understanding the competitive landscape of student recruitment, prompt and personalized outreach to applicants is prioritized. This rapid engagement is essential for individuals exploring multiple educational options and underscores the institution’s commitment to prospective students.

Understanding Student Pathways: At the heart of the recruitment strategy is a nuanced understanding of the non-traditional routes many prospective students take toward higher education. By recognizing that these individuals may not transition directly from high school to college, outreach, and support, strategies are accordingly adapted. This involves meeting students where they are in their educational journey, offering clear and accessible pathways that cater to their specific needs.

Innovating Higher Education Recruitment: The institution stands out by moving beyond the traditional belief that its reputation alone should attract students. Instead, there’s a proactive effort to understand and meet the diverse needs of its student population, acknowledging that the institution bears the responsibility of attracting and supporting students through their unique educational pathways.

In essence, this strategy integrates advanced digital marketing techniques with a deep commitment to understanding and meeting the needs of a diverse and often non-traditional student population. This approach positions the institution as a preferred choice for prospective students and reflects its broader commitments to access, equity, and inclusion in higher education.


A Clear Vision and Stakeholder Cooperation

A comprehensive strategy has been developed to foster a shared vision within the institution aimed at enhancing student success, equity, access, and inclusion. This collaborative effort is underscored by the alignment of processes and procedures and the engagement of personnel across the institution, all dedicated to supporting a diverse student population, particularly those with some college experience but no degree.

Under the leadership of the newly appointed President, Linda Mills, who has a background in student success and experience, the institution has prioritized these objectives. An equity and access inclusion network has been established, bringing together stakeholders from various schools and colleges to discuss and develop accessible pathways for students. This initiative highlights a top-down commitment to making equity, access, and inclusion a central focus, guiding the institution’s strategies and tactics.

A key area of focus is the development of internal articulation agreements between associate and bachelor’s degree programs. This strategy is designed to facilitate smoother transitions for students moving from associate to bachelor’s degree programs, with the goal of accelerating degree completion and reducing costs. The initiative requires a collaborative effort across different departments, with subject matter experts working together to articulate curricula and integrate these pathways into the student information system (SIS).

This holistic and systematic approach signifies a deep institutional commitment to envisioning and actively realizing cross-school collaboration and student support. By integrating vision, strategy, tactics, and operations, the institution embodies holistic thinking and adopts a systems approach to education, ensuring that every component is aligned towards the shared goal of enhancing student success and inclusivity.


This wraps up Part One. See Part Two for the remainder of the Alternate Pathways podcast → 


About Our Podcast Guest

Douglas Harrison leads the Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies at NYU’s School of Professional Studies. Prior to NYU, Harrison founded the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology at the University of Maryland Global Campus. He has published and presented widely on access and inclusion in online learning, assessment security, and academic integrity. He is a past director on the board of the International Center for Academic Integrity and currently serves on Turnitin’s Customer Advisory Board for AI in higher education and for the Sounding Spirit Collaborative at Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship. His scholarship has been awarded the John Kluge Residential Fellowship at the Library of Congress and the NEA’s Award for Excellence in the Academy.

Social Link: Doug Harrison on LinkedIn → 


About the Host

Dr. Drumm McNaughton, host of Changing Higher Ed podcast, is a consultant to higher education institutions in governance, accreditation, strategy and change, and mergers.

Transcript: Changing Higher Ed Podcast 197


[00:31:01] Drumm McNaughton: Thank you, David.

[00:31:02] Our guest today is Dr. Doug Harrison, the head of New York University’s Applied Undergraduate Studies program at its School for Professional Studies. Doug is no stranger to creating alternative paths that create access and inclusion for students. Prior to NYU, he founded the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology at the University of Maryland’s Global Campus. He currently serves on Turnitin’s customer advisory board for A.I. and for the Sounding Spirit Collaborative at Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship.

[00:31:36] In this first of a two-part podcast, Doug joins us to talk about NYU and how it has put in place the structures and processes to create, through its School of Professional Studies, an alternative pathway for first-gen and low sociodemographic students so that they can get an NYU degree. Doug, welcome to the program.

[00:31:57] Doug Harrison: Hey, thanks for having me.

[00:31:58] Drumm McNaughton: My pleasure. How’s your weather back there in New York?

[00:32:01] Doug Harrison: Oh, you know, as you can see behind me, it’s a lovely sunny day in New York. So, we’ll definitely take it.

[00:32:06] Drumm McNaughton: Absolutely. This time of year, you guys can get some pretty nasty weather.

[00:32:11] Doug Harrison: Yeah. So, we’re not glad that it’s happening out west, but I’m not sorry that we’re being spared today.

[00:32:16] Drumm McNaughton: I’m looking forward to our conversation. You’re with NYU, and you guys are doing some amazing stuff with respect to creating alternate pathways to a top-tier college degree. Before we get into it, if you wouldn’t mind, give us a little bit about your background. You have a somewhat unusual background for someone getting into this line of work.

[00:32:40] You’re right. I work with a lot of people who take unconventional paths to higher education, and what we see a lot in those populations is people who take a lot of different twists and turns that don’t track with some of the more typical assumptions we make about learners. And that’s kind of been my own professional journey. So, while I wouldn’t have known to predict it when I started out as a faculty member and English professor 20-odd years ago, this is where I would end up now. It’s been really a reflection of a lot of serendipity and a lot of discovery as I’ve gone along the way of how to really be part of the contributions that can help respond to the people who need higher education and don’t access it in common ways.

[00:33:17] Doug Harrison: So I started out as a faculty member, and then through my own sort of discovery of what was most rewarding in the work and my own reflection on my background, a first-generation, low-income kid from the Ozarks of Missouri, who had a sort of transformational experience with public higher education. I began to orient my career, especially in my leadership and administrative work, focusing on how to use the management structures and deliveries of academic programs and post-secondary learning. How can that maximally deliver the transformative impact of a college degree that it indisputably has, I think, and how we can bring those social and economic transformations of that effect, especially for the populations that have been historically excluded from that access and opportunity?

[00:33:59] So Trinity Washington University, I was there for a while in the Dean’s Office of the Historic Women’s College. That was really focused on a culturally responsive curriculum for Black and Latinx women from the district and around the region to really see themselves in learning and transformation of agents in life and work.

[00:34:14] I then went to the University of Maryland Global Campus, the largest online, public university in the U.S. There, I did a lot of different things, but most recently, before I left, I founded the School of Cyber and I.T. We were the largest degree-granting institution for those fields and the largest minority educator in those fields in the U.S., especially military learners, low low-income, first gen, really understanding how to bring access to that population at low cost.

[00:34:40] And then, my move to NYU has been really, I think, centered around a focus on how do we really bring the especially transformative impact of an elite, world-renowned global university and bring the power of those degrees to populations that may not always see themselves and haven’t really been always understood as typical NYU students. And so that’s a really exciting work that we’re engaged in now in the School of Professional Studies.

[00:35:06] Drumm McNaughton: Well, that’s a pretty amazing background, and who would have thunk an English major founding a school for cyber? I’m impressed.

[00:35:14] Doug Harrison: Okay, well, I’ve been very lucky, right, as you sort of step up and embrace the opportunities, you get to engage in some of that lifelong learning we’re always talking about. I always like to put the plugin that I think one of the things I hope my career has, has indicated is that you can really do almost anything with an English degree, so

[00:35:29] Drumm McNaughton: Well, that’s really good. I was a physics major for my undergraduate. I remember taking courses like Chaucer and his Age, where we read the Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English and Gawain and the Green Knight in the Welsh, which was hard.

[00:35:48] Doug Harrison: Yes, that is. It’s good for you.

[00:35:50] Drumm McNaughton: But I thoroughly enjoyed those courses as well.

[00:35:53] But, I think you’re absolutely right. I think, and we’re getting a little bit off-topic here, but this is something that I’m passionate about. I think a balanced education is so critical nowadays. What do you think?

[00:36:07] Doug Harrison: Absolutely. Right. And I think we’re focused in the School of Professional Studies and the division that I lead of Applied Undergraduate Studies. We’re really focused on a career-oriented, industry aligned, market-responsive career, transformation around reskilling and upskilling. And that’s our mission, our focus, and we’re proud of that. And sometimes, in this space, I think there can be. Some assumptions that creep in in some sectors. That’s antithetical to, or something different than, how we think about a traditional college degree that is really grounded in the liberal arts and humanities. And I would say that, the only way I have ever practiced this and the work that we are really committed to at NYU is an absolute fusion of those things, right?

[00:36:47] So the kinds of things that you’re talking about, the kinds of intellectual, cultural, social learning that you did in studying Gawain and the Green Knight or the Canterbury Tales. Those are teaching you all sorts of things that are grounded in those enduring skills that sometimes get, I think, deprecated as soft skills. I think that’s the wrong way to think about them. Those are the enduring skills, that ability to closely read other cultures and ways of living. That’s a core competency of any time you engage in literature. That is absolutely critical for 21st-century life and work to be a global citizen in intercultural competence.

[00:37:20] All those kinds of skills absolutely have to be there alongside the more immediate skills that is responsive to the job trends that we currently see, and they’re driving sort of the big social-economic transformations in life and work. So they’re absolutely; I don’t think you can have one without the other.

[00:37:37] Drumm McNaughton: Amen, brother. I love the way you say that. I’m going to borrow a few of those words, if you don’t mind.

[00:37:41] Doug Harrison: That’s absolutely fine.

[00:37:43] Drumm McNaughton: So getting to NYU, you guys are providing opportunities, especially in your school of professional studies, you’re providing opportunities for people to get a tier one education for folks that normally wouldn’t be able to get that kind of education.

[00:38:05] Doug Harrison: That’s right, and I think sometimes too hidden gem of NYU, , that part of its commitment to access and equity and inclusion, which plays out in a number of ways across the scores of programs and all the schools, in the school of professional studies, which really is focused on the working adult, the reskiller, the upskiller,the professionally oriented undergraduate and graduate students.

[00:38:27] One of the ways that we fulfill that is, and in my division of Applied Undergraduate Studies, is to really be the place for those students to take an unconventional pathto college. So if you have at least a semester between high school and college, and you come to NYU, you come to the Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies that really prides itself on meeting students where they are and helping them construct the best pathway to a college degree.

[00:38:51] What that means in practice is that a lot of our students are degree completers, right? “Some college, no degree” population is upwards of 30 or 40 million in the U. S. that’s the largest population of higher education addressable market. And so we have lots of students who’ve had multiple unsuccessful attempts at a post secondaryexperience. And so they have lots of diverse transfer credit, and we try to work hard to maximally award that in our degree pathways so that they can accelerate the time to complete their degree and to do it at a lower cost. We also have associates degrees in my division, which is not as common, in elite, research universities, but it’s one of the ways that NYU is continued to committed to building a range of diverse access pathways for students. You can also do those at a lower cost than our full rate on a bachelor’s degree. And so for Pell and TAP eligible students, they can attend and complete associate’s degree with no cost of attendance. Those stack into bachelor’s degrees.

[00:39:45] We have online degrees in my division, which helped meet those students for whom a traditional Monday, Wednesday, Friday, daytime course schedule may not be feasible because of professional obligations, family commitments. So we really try to think about how do we meet as many students where they are, through how we are constructing our degree pathways.

[00:40:04] Drumm McNaughton: Well, let’s unpack some of those things, because what you’re doing is very unique among the tier one schools, just as you said. You talked about the 30 to 40 million people who have some degree and you know the old saying, “the most college degree you’ll ever get is the one that you never got” or something along those lines. How is it that you can reach out to these folks and get them to enroll

[00:40:36] Doug Harrison: Yeah, so I think it’s a couple of things. First of all, and I think this is really important at the sort of perspective of how you establish a vision and a commitment that can make this possible in the first place. And so when we think about what does this mean for people who have responsibilities to set leadership visions, it’s to create the permission structures for the kinds of diverse access pathways that my division constructs and tries to maintain, the school of professional studies is there, that has to be a leadership commitment from the top in order to allow you to then construct the processes, the tactics, the operations, the curriculum pathway that can be attractive.

[00:41:15] Drumm McNaughton: And when you say the top are you talking about the President are you talking about the Board, all the above, the state?

[00:41:21] Doug Harrison: All of the above, at least, I mean, I think the ideal is that yes, from state regulatory accrediting bodies, leadership of the individual institution, both its corporate governance as well as the executive and academic leadership. At all levels, each of them has a role to play in empowering the operation up and down and across the organizational charts to really think about where you sit in your school division program course. What is your role in making sure that we’re maximally supporting the most diverse array of students? Even in a traditional classroom, you’ve got a lot more heterogeneity of background experience, need, and opportunity than just a single lecture of 350 people might provide. Now, we don’t deliver those kind of courses here.

[00:42:08] We try to meet the kind of students that we serve in a couple of different ways. Because a lot of the adult learners, the professional learners, the some college, no degree learners, they are often looking for programs online, and that’s one way that they go out and shop. They aren’t necessarily a high school student talking to a counselor who points them to an NYU program that might be good for them.

[00:42:31] So, a big part of attracting our potential student population is working really hard to be great at how we present our programs online and how we optimize our search engine performance, so that when a student puts in degree completion, I believe it’s true today, it was certainly true last month, NYU is the first thing that comes up because we prioritized investment in SEO to make sure that we’re getting in front of prospective students. Now, you can’t just rely on that. There has to be a whole up funnel strategy in marketing admissions and enrollment management that then is when that student expresses interest, right? When they click on that link, we have a whole number of ways that we work with partners to make sure that we can then custom target additional, social media that they might see and get them to the point that they then come to our website and apply. And when they apply, we need to reach out to them very quickly because they’re probably shopping around. That’s not uncommon for the degree completer, for the reskiller, for the upskiller that is the core of our student service population. When I talked earlier about what does it mean to leverage the administrative, organizational, operational structures of higher education leadership, it’s those kinds of things that have to be very clear about the tactics and strategies. You got to know the student that you’re trying to serve and then understand where they are and how the pathways they take to you, rather than the more traditional higher education assumption, which is to say, we’re a great institution, you should want to come to us, and that’s all on you. Right? We’ve really flipped that script and said, it’s our job to meet students where they are and understand that they’re getting to higher education in a different pathway. And so there’s all sorts of really specific tactics and strategies that follow when you really lean into that commitment.

[00:44:13] Drumm McNaughton: It sounds like you’ve built, and i’ll put it in some of the planning terms that we use, you’ve built a shared vision across the institution for what you’re doing. You’ve got your processes your procedures all aligned to be able to do this for your area, and then you have the attunement of the people who are working there who are all in for bringing these folks, you know, some college, no degree, bringing all these folks in. Does that make sense?

[00:44:44] Doug Harrison: It absolutely does. We’re literally immersed in some of this work right now at the institution that really speaks directly to, I think, with the kind of thing that you’re alluding to. We have relatively new President, Linda Mills, started in the summer, and she came up in NYU through the student success and student experience world, and she’s really made our top priority as an institution to focus on student success and all the ways that means, and especially around equity, access and inclusion. And so we have a equity and access inclusion network that brings stakeholders from across the schools and colleges at NYU together to really talk about, and work together to see what those access pathways can be. And when we get back to that leadership thing, right, there’s got to be that commitment from the top that says, this is a priority for us. And then what are the actual tactics and strategies that we engage in?

[00:45:31] And so one of the discussions we’re having right now is we’ve recognized that, yes, we have associates degrees at NYU, that I’ve alluded to earlier that in my division, now we have an opportunity to create internal articulation agreements with those associate degrees to follow on bachelor’s degree completion pathways that might make sense so that we can accelerate the time to degree, and lower the cost for students who start with us in associates degree and then can complete in follow on bachelor’s degree that makes sense from where they started.

[00:46:01] So that again is got to be both a conceptual commitment in a vision that’s laid out there that says we believe in cross school collaboration, but then there’s a very tactical and administrative and operational component where subject matter experts from each school where the associates and bachelors is, have to sit down and look at the curriculum and do the articulation and map it out and load it into the SIS and all of those sort of nuts and bolts.

[00:46:24] So it’s it starts with vision. It goes to strategy. It goes to tactics and operation. All of those have to be aligned and meshed.

[00:46:32] Drumm McNaughton: That’s what we would call holistic thinking.

[00:46:35] Doug Harrison: Yeah, it’s a systems approach, right?

[00:46:37] Drumm McNaughton: Exactly, exactly. And so, one of the things that really struck me when we spoke, a week or so ago was, when I asked you how you’re doing this, you said there were four key components and I want to unpack each of those. The four being the friendly to transfer credit, your delivery modality, doing associates degree which we’ve gotten into, but also two very important the prior learning assessment. So let’s talk a little bit about that transfer credit because that is critical and so many students transferring from even accredited junior colleges or other colleges, they lose so many credits.

[00:47:19] Doug Harrison: Yeah. So this is a fascinating topic. And I know we have our ground rules here. This might be the one where you need to tell me to stop being evangelistic because I get really excited about this

[00:47:26] Drumm McNaughton: stuff.

[00:47:26] Oh, no, go for it, man.

[00:47:28] Doug Harrison: So, transfer credit. This is something that I think so many more elite, or selective institutions, really have an opportunity to take a kind of gestalt shift on. NYU is not one of these I’m proud to say, but I think that there is certainly a constellation of thinking and practice in more selective institutions within the U.S., that accepting transfer credit is really discouraged and looked down upon because it’s seen as somehow, it would be accepting inferior or less academically sound evidence of learning from previous institutions, and that derives from probably some good faith thinking aboutreputation and academic quality. At the same time, it has some very negative impacts on trying to meet and serve those students who’ve had unsuccessful degree completion attempts prior to the arriving at your institution.

[00:48:14] And so how we’ve tried to structure that is in a couple of ways. First of all,we made the case to the university that while there’s a fairly, you know, lower limit of credit around the 20 or 30 credit limit for most undergraduates in terms of allowable transfer credit. We made the case that because of the student populations that we’re serving, particularly in the Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies, that we should be allowed to accept more transfer credit. And so we can now accept up to 80 credits of transfer into a bachelor’s degree. That’s really powerful.

[00:48:41] Drumm McNaughton: That is powerful

[00:48:42] Doug Harrison: But it’s only as powerful as your ability for your curriculum architecture to take in as much of that credit as possible. And so it’s not just enough to say we’ll take 80 credits. We’ve got to have a curriculum that’s constructed in a way that can maximally accept that. And so the second part of that is a shift that we’re making over the next period of time to offer fewer bachelor’s degrees. And why is that important? the more bachelor degree verticals you have built out in more discreet, career or disciplinary areas, the harder it is to accept transfer credit, because the transfer credit profile of most of these students, because they’ve had multiple unsuccessful attempts at previous institutions, they’ve probably started in psychology maybe, and didn’t extend. And then maybe they went back for some I.T., and then maybe they went back and had some organizational behavior.

[00:49:30] And if you’ve got a single vertical, in say computer science, that is not going to accept a lot of that non technical, diverse transfer credit that’s out there. And so we leave a lot on the table, or we just apply it as elective credit. And then the student still has to take additional courses to fulfill the degree requirements of the narrowly constructed vertical.

[00:49:49] And so by going to fewer, what we might think of as kind of operationally container credentials that are in, say, something like applied technology, then we have specializations built on top of that that still do all the important things that we need to do in technology education. So you can specialize in data, you can specialize in cyber security, you can specialize in emergent technology, in FinTech. And you can put those together in ways that are maximally responsive to your career goals. And we can maximally apply that transfer credit that’s dispersed across a range of disciplines and fields.

[00:50:21] So that’s a really important component that there’s a policy component. How much will you accept? And that’s an operational decision. And then there’s a very specific tactical and architectural decision that you have to make and implement around the curriculum itself.

[00:50:35] Drumm McNaughton: And by doing these as specializations, you don’t run afoul of the creditor who generally requires you to do a substantive change if you’re changing more than 25 percent of your original curriculum.

[00:50:49] Doug Harrison: Yeah. You’re exactly right. And so here’s one of those examples where the different stakeholders in the post secondary ecosystem are moving at different paces of cultural and operational change around meeting as many students where they are, and especially focusing on this degree completion challenge and opportunity, if we’re going to live up to what the economy needs and what we want to attain in terms of social transformation.

[00:51:11] So, you’re right. If you construct a curriculum on a program core, and then you have concentrations, at least in the state of New York, concentration is a very specific and regulated statement to our state oversight authorities that requires state approval. And you can only make substantive changes to that if you go back through what is about a two year process to get approval to change that.

[00:51:35] And that is a good faith. process that’s meant to ensure academic integrity and quality in the curriculum. So I’m not, I don’t want to impute any bad faith or malevolence to the kind of oversight frameworks that that derives from, but it has unintended consequences that have negative impacts on access and equity because it doesn’t allow a career focused curriculum to move at the speed of industry in the economy.

[00:51:59] If you try to have an A.I. specialization and wait two years to make a substantive change to it, the world will have dramatically and almost entirely changed in that time. And so we’re moving to the use of specializations which don’t require us to get approval from the state because they’re not transcripted in the traditional way. That’s really the indicator of what requires regulatory approval.

[00:52:19] We’re still governing them with absolute, the same academic quality, rigor, and integrity that we would in concentrations, but we don’t have to seek that two year approval. So we can keep up with the speed of term over term change that we see in business, industry, economy and life. And we then digitally credentialed that to the students. So they still have the benefit of having a credential from NYU that says they have an applied technology degree in cyber security and data specializations, and they tell us that digital credential is really more valuable than waiting until it shows up on a piece of paper that they get from the registrar and give to their employer because the digital credential allows us to talk about the skills affiliated with that learning, not just the name of a course, which is a black box to employers about what’s behind it in terms of skills based learning.

[00:53:04] Drumm McNaughton: The other thing that I thought was really interesting about this, transfer credit is, you’re allowing up to 18 credits for work degrees. Tell me about that.

[00:53:14] Doug Harrison: So yeah, this fall, we launched our first, partnership with apprenticeship degrees at the associate’s degree level, and we have more coming on in the coming terms. And those are really set up, and a reflection of what a partnership strategy really has to be to do this work. To really be fully responsible to this population of students that are looking for career relevant, enduring skills that give them economic and social resilience, it just can’t be the post secondary institution saying here’s a credential, right? Industry’s moved away from credentialing as the model and has moved towards the skills forward approach. And so, our curriculum has to be aligned to that skills forward approach, which means we have to be very close in contact with employers and industry defining economic sectors to understand where their needs are and how we can maximally help that.

[00:54:01] And one of the ways we can do that is through work based learning. We’ve done apprenticeships and co ops for some time. We continue to do those. But apprenticeship degrees are really a fairly new concept to the U. S. and fairly rare in more selective or elite institutions. And so we’re really excited to be sort of leading in this space in the post secondary world, to say let’s work with employers to identify some job structures that they want to use to increase their workforce, respond to workforce needs. So it often is around to job structures that emergent or job structures that are in high demand areas, and they want to bring in more diverse learners. So they might bring in an employee who’s in that job, and then at the same time that they’re doing that job, we’ve worked with that employer to identify the workplace deliverables associated with that job structure and map them into our curriculum. We’ve worked with their supervisor to train the on the job supervisor to know how to mentor and support an apprentice who’s both a full time employee and an associate’s degree active student at NYU. So that when they complete those deliverables, we can then say, yes, successful completion of those deliverables on the job translates into 18 credits into our associates degree. In a 30 credit associates degree, that’s a considerable amount of credit that gets them accelerated through the degree. And then they’re also taking coursework with us to fill in around that so that they can complete the degree and have professional impact that often means it. A promotion or the ability to earn more money in their job, and to really cement their professional development at that point.

[00:55:36] Drumm McNaughton: Those are fabulous things. We could spend three hours talking about this easily.

[00:55:41] Doug Harrison: Yeah.

[00:55:43] Drumm McNaughton: This wraps up the first part of our interview with Doug Harrison. Tune in next week when we conclude this interview about what NYU is doing to create a low cost alternative pathway at a tier one institution.

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