FAQ regarding Academic Partnerships/online programs

Frequently Asked Questions About the Agreement Between EMU And Academic Partnerships

Q: What is Academic Partnerships?
A: Academic Partnerships (“AP”) is a Texas-based company that markets and provides technical support for online academic programs offered by colleges and universities to students who want to pursue a degree online. AP uses specialized tools to identify students from across the nation who have expressed interest in specific online degree programs, thus saving the educational institution the time and money that is required to effectively develop and execute a comprehensive nationwide marketing campaign. www.academicpartnerships.com
Q: What is AP’s relationship with EMU?
A: EMU signed an agreement with AP in 2016 to market and provide technical support for EMU’s online programs. AP’s marketing efforts are focused on students who have expressed an interest in online education (as opposed to on-campus education) and/or students who may not be aware of EMU because they do not live in our region.
Q: Is the agreement between EMU and AP available for the public to review?
A: Yes. EMU issued a press release in 2016 announcing the new arrangement with AP, and the agreement has been available online for more than one year to allow any member of the campus or community to review it.
Q: Why did EMU enter this agreement with AP?
A: EMU has a strategic goal to increase enrollment in its faculty-developed online programs. By increasing online opportunities, EMU seeks to (1) expand learning opportunities for non-traditional students who desire online education; (2) increase revenues for the University; and (3) increase employment opportunities for EMU faculty, full-time lecturers, and part-time lecturers who teach all of EMU’s online programs.
Student credit hours (“SCH”) and enrollment have been stagnant or falling at regional public universities. SCHs at EMU have fallen by 13% since 2011. This trend is caused by several factors, including the declining number of high school graduates in Michigan and dramatic reductions in community college enrollment. Meanwhile, the demand for online education is increasing rapidly. 19% of the student body in the United States is pursuing a fully-online degree. Since 2010, nationwide online enrollment is up 56% while on-campus enrollment is down 8%. EMU has been slow to respond to this national trend even though the trend will likely continue as the “Millennial Generation” enters their college years. Moody’s Investors Service recently issued a report declaring that “growing online offerings to meet student demands is credit positive” for higher education institutions.
Many non-traditional students also prefer online education because it allows them to pursue a degree while working full-time and raising a family. EMU’s Mission Statement reaffirms that we are an institution of opportunity. Online education – developed and taught by EMU’s expert instructors – provides new opportunities for non-traditional students who would not otherwise have access to higher education. Steven Krause, professor of English at EMU, recently wrote an opinion piece for Inside Higher Education in which he noted, among other points, that:
“I teach at a large and regional university, one where a significant percentage of our students cannot afford the luxuries offered at smaller, private universities. As part of our opportunity-granting mission, we have an obligation to meet students where they are in their lives. Offering online courses is part of that mission.”
Q: Did the faculty union file a grievance challenging the AP agreement?
A: Yes. The union representing EMU tenured and tenure-track faculty filed a grievance challenging the AP agreement and asking for a moratorium on its implementation. An independent arbitrator issued a detailed written decision rejecting the union’s grievance.
Q: Do other public universities use AP to market and support online programs?
A: Yes. AP specializes in working with public universities. For example, University of Cincinnati and University of Texas-Arlington have retained AP to help market online programs.
Our peers are also expanding online enrollment. For example, Central Michigan University is increasing online enrollment even as on-campus enrollment declines.
Q: How does EMU decide which online programs will be marketed by AP?
A: As outlined in Section (C) of the agreement, EMU and AP must both agree before an online program is marketed by AP. All of EMU’s online programs are developed and taught by EMU instructors (e.g., faculty, full-time lecturers, and part-time lecturers).
Q: Which of EMU’s online programs are currently marketed by AP?
A: EMU offers 15 different online programs, but AP has been assigned to market only three of those programs: RN-to-BSN, master’s in educational leadership, and bachelor’s of general studies. All of these programs were developed and launched by EMU faculty before EMU entered the agreement with AP.
Q: Has enrollment increased in the online programs marketed by AP?
A: Yes. For example, EMU’s RN-to-BSN program has been offered online by EMU since 2015 – before EMU hired AP to assist with online marketing. At its peak, the program (before AP was hired) enrolled up to 40 students in each cohort. In the first two cohorts marketed by AP, enrollment increased from 40 students each to nearly 100 students each – an increase of more than 150%.
Enrollment in EMU’s online master’s in educational leadership program also increased. Three cohorts in late-2016 and early-2017 enrolled 39 students before the AP agreement. One year later, after EMU hired AP, the same cohorts enrolled 55 students, which represents a 41% increase in enrollment.
AP increased enrollment by recruiting students from both in and outside of Michigan, most of whom (1) are not familiar with EMU, (2) would not otherwise select EMU for an online program, and (3) would not attend classes on EMU’s campus without AP having recruited them. For example, students recruited by AP into EMU’s RN-to-BSN program come from Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia, among other areas. These increases in enrollment have generated new revenue for the University and created new employment opportunities for EMU instructors.
Q: Who develops the curriculum for the online programs that are marketed by AP?
A: EMU. AP does not develop courses for EMU; it merely markets and recruits students for courses that have been developed and are taught by EMU instructors. Section II of the agreement between EMU and AP specifically provides that “the University shall maintain the sole authority” regarding the “appointment of faculty”, the “delivery of Online Programs”, “evaluation of Student performance”, and “decision to award course credit and/or academic credentialing”.
Q: Who teaches the online programs that are marketed by AP?
A: Only instructional personnel employed by EMU (tenured or tenure-track faculty, full-time lecturers, or part-time lecturers) teach online courses that are marketed by AP. Section II of the agreement specifically provides that “the University shall maintain the sole authority” regarding the “appointment of faculty”, the “delivery of Online Programs”, “evaluation of Student performance”, and “decision to award course credit and/or academic credentialing”.
Q: Is EMU outsourcing any jobs as part of the AP agreement?
A: No. All of the online courses marketed by AP are taught by instructors employed by EMU. As noted above, one of EMU’s goals through this initiative is to increase employment opportunities for EMU instructors by increasing enrollment in online courses that were developed and are taught by EMU instructors.
Q: How are students who are recruited by AP admitted to our online programs?
A: Only EMU may admit students to its programs. Section II of the agreement requires that “the University shall maintain the sole authority” regarding the “admission of Students” into programs marketed by AP. Those students must proceed through EMU’s normal admissions processes.
Q: Are the instructors employed by EMU who teach online programs that are marketed by AP members of a union?
A: The employment of all instructional personnel at EMU is governed by a set of collective bargaining agreements. Specifically, the employment of tenured and tenure-track faculty is governed by an agreement with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the employment of full-time lecturers and part-time lecturers is governed by agreements with the Michigan Federation of Teachers (MFT). By increasing enrollment in EMU’s online programs, the agreement with AP helps increase employment opportunities for EMU instructors.
Q: I hear that “coaches” may be hired to teach online programs. What does this mean?
A: Although AP has offered EMU the option to hire coaches (an individual selected by EMU instructors and hired by EMU to assist EMU instructors with grading, technical issues, etc.), the EMU administration has stated, verbally and in writing, that it does not intend to hire coaches.
Q: I hear that expanding online education through AP may dilute the quality of EMU’s academic programs. Is that true?
A: No. AP does not develop or teach any online courses at EMU. The only online programs marketed by AP are those that are developed and taught by EMU instructors (faculty, full-time lecturers, and part-time lecturers). EMU instructors have been developing and teaching high-quality online courses for many years – long before EMU signed the agreement with AP. In fact, EMU offers 15 different online programs, but AP has been assigned to market only three of those programs and, as the arbitrator noted in his written decision rejecting the faculty union’s grievance, those programs existed before the agreement with AP was signed.
Q: How is AP compensated for its services?
A: AP receives a marketing fee ranging from 47-50% of the gross tuition paid by each student it recruits into a specific online program.
Q: How is this arrangement financially beneficial to EMU if AP is paid a marketing fee equal to approximately half of the tuition paid by the students it recruits?
A: AP recruits students from Michigan and across the country, most of whom (1) are not familiar with EMU, (2) would not otherwise select EMU for an online program, and/or (3) would not attend classes on EMU’s campus without AP having recruited them. Although EMU keeps about half of the tuition for those students who enroll in the programs marketed by AP, half is more than zero, which is the alternative had AP not recruited those students to enroll in an EMU program.
This arrangement is also financially beneficial for EMU because AP pays 100% of the cost to market EMU’s online programs. It requires significant time and money to develop and execute a comprehensive nationwide marketing campaign. EMU would have been forced to incur those expenses had it not retained AP, and there would not be a guarantee of any return on such an investment. In this case, AP – not EMU – bears the risk of spending money on a marketing campaign.
The RN-to-BSN program illustrates the value of this arrangement. Enrollment in that program increased by 150% because of AP’s efforts. Although EMU retains only half the tuition paid by those additional students for the RN-to-BSN program, it would not have received any of that additional tuition revenue had AP not recruited those students. Moreover, EMU incurred no additional costs to recruit those new students.
Q: Does AP divert students from the classroom to online programs?
A: No. The students recruited by AP have expressed an interest in online education, often because they work full-time and/or are raising families. Without access to a quality online education, these students might not be able to earn a college degree. Moreover, these students are generally not located near Michigan and therefore would not attend classes on EMU’s campus.
It is important for universities such as Eastern to offer online programs. Online programs provide degree opportunities for many people who otherwise would not be able to attend classes. These include working adults who do not have time to travel to campus after work and single parents who are raising families while trying to earn their degree, including teachers, nurses and many other professions.
Q: Are the online programs marketed by AP of sufficient quality?
A: Yes. As the arbitrator who rejected the faculty union’s grievance noted, the online courses and programs marketed by AP were previously developed and approved by EMU instructors, and are taught by EMU instructors. In fact, EMU offers 15 different online programs, but AP has been assigned to market only three of those programs.
Q: Has there been any independent analysis of this arrangement?
A: Yes. The union representing EMU tenured and tenure-track faculty recently filed a grievance challenging the AP agreement. An independent arbitrator issued a detailed written decision in favor of EMU and rejecting the union’s grievance.
WEMU also conducted a comprehensive investigation into the agreement with AP which can be read here. WEMU concluded:
“WEMU has found no evidence that any new courses have been added to EMU’s catalog to accommodate this agreement. WEMU has found no evidence that there have been any changes to admission standards to accommodate this agreement. WEMU has found no evidence that previously existing academic standards, such as course capacity, have been changed to accommodate this agreement. WEMU has found no evidence that Instructional Connections coaches are being used in any form as part of an EMU course. WEMU has found no evidence that the agreement between AP and EMU varies in any significant way from industry standards in regards to public institution agreements with OPM [online program management] entities other than the shorter timeline (five year timelines fall at the very bottom of time scales typically found in these agreements) and the restrictions placed on who is responsible for making decisions related to academics (it is common for these agreements to allow OPMs to manage nearly every aspect of online-only programs including course creation and instruction).”
Q: What is the length of the agreement between EMU and AP?
A: The agreement between EMU and AP lasts five years. As noted above, WEMU analyzed the agreement and concluded that EMU’s agreement is of a “shorter” duration than other similar agreements between AP and other universities.

BY THE NUMBERS…

150%

The increase in enrollment in EMU’s online RN-to-BSN program after AP began marketing the program


0

Number of EMU online courses that are taught by non-EMU employees


56%

The increase in online enrollment nationwide, reflecting the growing demand for online education from “millennial” students and non-traditional students seeking to pursue higher education while working and raising a family


$0

Expenses incurred by EMU to market these online programs (AP incurs all of the marketing expenses)


0

Number of “coaches” hired by EMU through AP (EMU has stated, verbally and in writing, that it will not hire coaches through AP)

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