I just got back from speaking about DIY U at Ft. Hays State University in western Kansas, a spot reachable only by a 19-seat prop plane with no bathroom. Despite that, I learned, they have over 200 students from China, and even more remarkably, they have 3600 Chinese students studying IN China as part of a few different dual degree programs, who will earn both Chinese and American diplomas in four years. This tiny rural campus, founded as a state teachers’ normal college in 1905, was the first American instiution certified to grant degrees in China, a relationship they’ve pursued as one of a series of international partnerships thanks to their director of partnerships and distance learning, Cindy Elliott, who was headed for Turkey and Dubai the day after my visit; they also have their sights set on India. To that end they’re developing an interdisciplinary degree program in Global Business English. At the same time, they’ve radically expanded their online offerings. Several staff members are committed to helping professors adopt free and open-source tools and materials; Cable Green of Creative Commons is coming to speak in a few months. And they do all of this with pretty damn low tuition: $2449 per semester for in-state 18-credit-hour undergrads and $7400 for out-of-state.
I mention this because I was surprised and impressed and I want to give credit where credit’s due. There’s so much hype about educational innovation coming from Boston or Silicon Valley, but as part of my work I have to remember to shed light on the Southern New Hampshires and western Kansases of the world.