A Future for the School for New Learning to Enhance Access to Education

DePaul's Loop Campus
(DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)
Over the past 18 months, DePaul has invested time and resources to thoroughly examine the adult learner landscape— and the School for New Learning’s role in it—to determine what must be done so DePaul can continue to lead in this competitive area. 

This study involved comprehensive review from the independent Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, as well as two internal task forces that included SNL faculty. SNL has a 45-year history that commanded respect and careful consideration from those serving on the task forces. I thank everyone involved for their thoughtful participation in these studies. 

Yesterday, I joined SNL Dean Donald Opitz to share with SNL faculty and staff a general plan that is built around the results of those studies. The research and recommendations have made it clear that the best way forward is for DePaul to adopt a unique, new model that will build upon the strengths of SNL and yet expand its mission and scope of operations to be more responsive to new markets.

Over the next year, SNL will undergo a large-scale reorganization, renaming, and rebranding; a broadening of its mission and function; and changes to its faculty and staffing structure. The name approved by Faculty Council, the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS), will go into effect July 1, 2019. 

SCPS will be a bold departure from the current SNL model. The new model will move away from offering competency-based, individualized degree options and move toward the growing adult market for credit-hour based, market-responsive professional studies degrees and stackable credentials. 

It will offer a comprehensive, innovative approach to continuing and professional education, making available programs and delivery modalities to provide access to a broad range of students within SCPS and other DePaul colleges and schools. Its unique infrastructure will leverage cross-college collaborations to promote existing college-based, adult friendly degrees and certificates. It also will house a university-wide Office of Prior Learning Assessment and will coordinate summer programs aimed at high school students and summer session at DePaul. 

The school, as restructured, will include a faculty and staff model—yet to be finalized—that provides the flexibility the unique SCPS model demands. To achieve this model, existing SNL tenured faculty will be offered a voluntary buyout and retiree-eligible staff will be offered an early retirement incentive.  When details of these voluntary programs are available, they will be shared with eligible SNL faculty and staff members.

Currently enrolled SNL students will be supported throughout the completion of their degree programs. 
A dean will continue to provide leadership for the school, and a Faculty Advisory Board will be formed drawing on faculty from participating colleges to support cross-college collaboration and curricular development.

In the months ahead, we will continue to work on details of the SCPS structure, a plan for the integration of new elements, a marketing plan, and the faculty and staffing model. Updates from the dean or the Office of Academic Affairs will be shared as more answers are available.  

I am grateful to Dean Opitz for providing leadership during this transition. As a participant in both task forces that provided input into this decision, he is well-positioned to work with his long-time colleagues as the reorganization of the school progresses. 

I am confident that when the reorganization is complete, SCPS will build on the university’s and SNL’s longstanding commitment to providing adult learners access to higher education through curricular structures that serve lifelong learning needs.