After three months on the job, Rex Fuller, the new dean of Eastern Washington Universitys College of Business and Public Administration, already is implementing changes to attract more business students to the school.
Business majors, not including those in public administration, currently represent about 8 percent of the universitys total enrollment.
One of Fullers main goals is to increase that percentage within the next three to five years to be at least comparable to the nearly 15 percent national average for universities offering similar business degrees.
Business majors and students enrolled in public administration and urban and regional programs through the EWU College of Business and Public Administration comprise about 10 percent of EWUs total enrollment.
Fuller says the colleges enrollment numbers have been flat for at least the last four years at around 1,000 students, and the schools lack of visibility in the community is one major reason for its below-average enrollment.
Many people dont know whats available here, Fuller says. I think we offer the right programs. We just need to become more visible and accessible to students and future students.
The business school offers classes at the EWU campus in Cheney, at the Riverpoint Higher Education Park east of downtown Spokane, and at a community college in Bellevue, Wash., Fuller says.
He says the best opportunities to increase the colleges enrollment are in its business programs, both at the undergraduate and masters degree levels, rather than in its public administration programs.
To that end, hes gathering and wading through surveys and a sea of data and other information in hopes of jump-starting the business enrollment figures by making it better known, improving the quality of the education provided, expanding the curriculum, and making classes at Cheney and at Riverpoint more accessible.
Hes working on an advertising campaign to market the school of business better, including a pitch targeted at EWU freshmen and sophomores who havent selected a major field of study, Fuller says.
In addition, Fuller and his department heads are setting benchmarks and testing students to learn the strengths and weaknesses of an EWU business education. Theyve already learned that EWU business students generally are knowledgeable about finance, but lack an acceptable level of understanding about business law, an area that can be addressed through curriculum changes. They also are conducting surveys to determine where most of the colleges students live, which will help administrators schedule courses to meet the needs of students who regularly attend classes on both of the EWUs Spokane-area campuses, which are about 18 miles apart.
The school also plans to survey Spokane-area businesses to determine what attributes they most want a business or public-administration graduate to have, Fuller says.
Although EWUs College of Business and Public Administration offers undergraduate degrees in 11 areas of study, Fuller roughly defines the business side of an education there as including accounting, finance, management, and marketing components. The public administration side includes courses in public administration, urban and regional planning, and health services.
The most popular programs at the school last spring were professional accounting, marketing, business administration, and general management.
General management is the only degree offered by EWU at Bellevue Community College, where two of the business schools 55 instructors are employed.
Fuller says EWU worked out an arrangement with the community college within the last two years to offer the degree after studies found the Seattle area was underserved by 4-year universities, especially in the field of business.
Fuller, whose office is at the Riverpoint campus, came to Spokane after serving as the dean of business at Colorado State University-Pueblo and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and brought with him a reputation of being strong in the field of accreditation, according to an EWU news release. Accreditation is important because it assures students they are getting a high-quality education, and because it makes the recruitment of top-level faculty easier, says Fuller.
He says about one-third of business schools in the U.S.including EWUsare accredited by the Association to Advance College Schools of Business, which he calls a premier accrediting agency for bachelors, masters, and doctoral degree programs in business administration.
Offering accredited academic programs helps students decide where to attend college. Students will go to a school that best fits their needs, he says.
One example is students who come to EWU to study in the schools Master of Urban and Regional Planning program, Fuller says. He says only EWU and the University of Washington offer such an accredited program in the state.
Focus of growth
Fuller says EWUs master of business administration (MBA) program has plenty of room to grow. Seventy-five students currently are enrolled in that program, compared with 115 in the colleges master of public administration program and 35 in the master of urban and regional planning program, the two other masters programs offered by the College of Business and Public Administration.
He says the college could accommodate another 25 MBA students immediately by increasing class sizes and making no other changes. He wasnt prepared to estimate such immediate growth potential for undergraduate students, but says plans are being formulated to add classes and faculty possibly to accommodate anticipated future growth at the college.
To make an MBA at EWU more attractive, Fuller is considering adding classes such as information technology and health-care marketing to offer a more specialized curriculum.
He also feels a need to convey better to students the economic benefits of an MBA. He says early results from a survey at the EWU business school show that first-job wages for students with EWU bachelors degrees in business begin at slightly more than $30,000, while first-job wages for their MBA counterparts begin at more than $45,000.
Another contributing factor to the business schools flat enrollment was a quarter-point boost in its grade-point-average admission standard, to 2.75, in 2003, Fuller says.
Rodolfo Arevalo, EWUs president, who arrived at the school after that standard was raised, says, Its my understanding they were trying to increase the quality of students entering into the business program. The primary way of doing that was to increase the GPA standard. He says the GPA standard wasnt raised then at any of the universitys other five colleges.
The other colleges at EWU are the College of Arts and Letters; College of Education and Human Development; College of Science, Health, and Engineering; College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; and College of Social Work and Human Services.
Contact Rocky Wilson at (509) 344-1264 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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