EMU's Decision to Work with Academic Partnerships

YPSILANTI, MI – Eastern Michigan University made an agreement to partner with Academic Partnerships (AP) in order to offer four programs fully online. These are the details of that agreement.

On Dec. 4, 2017, WEMU published a Special Report written by Patrick Campion, that stated Eastern Michigan University “entered into a Master Service Agreement [a contract]” with Academic Partnerships, a marketing agency located in Dallas, Texas. On AP's website, they claim “Since 2007, we have recruited more than 190,000 students for our partner universities” and they are partnered with more than 50 other Universities in the US. 

The four programs involved in the agreement are: A Bachelor's of General Studies, RN2BSN in the School of Nursing, a Master's in Educational Leadership, and a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction.

The Master Service Agreement contract made between EMU and AP can be found here: http://www.emich.edu/academic-student-affairs/provosts-office/documents/2016_11_29_emu_agreement-ap.pdf

The contract states AP will work alongside EMU faculty “on Online Programs’ design" which includes parts of courses such as levels, the course layouts, and the move of classes into what they call "electrical format".  This means AP is partnering with EMU to help them throughout the online course conversion process. 

However, the contract also states EMU will have total control over major decisions involving the online student users. This includes picking faculty, admitting students, how the online classes will be used, and much more. This means the University will have total control over the creation of the classes: what students will be learning and how they’ll learn, using the online system.

According to a document sent to Echo from Geoff Larcom, Executive Director of Media Relations at EMU, “AP is a student recruitment entity to more widely market EMU’s online offerings and bring us students from outside our immediate geographic region who might not otherwise attend EMU…AP’s student recruitment efforts extend far wider than EMU’s resources would allow, and thus the University gets revenue it would not otherwise generate.” 

Back in Dec. 2016 Eastern Michigan University sent out a press release on the subject stating the following: “Eastern Michigan University is fully responsible for the development and delivery of the academic product, which will be provided by Eastern Michigan University faculty and lecturers, while AP is responsible for promoting the programs and recruiting students.” EMU says here that they are in complete control over the courses taught by faculty and lecturers and they are partnering with AP solely for marketing purposes. 

Not long after, in Jan. 2017 the Provost and executive Vice President, Rhonda Longsworth,  sent out an update on the AP agreement with some key notes stating the following: “The agreement with Academic Partnerships provides us with marketing and program support...in return they receive a share of program revenues in those areas where their work supports the addition of new students.” Longsworth explains AP will be compensated for marketing to potential future online students. She also said EMU is struggling to reach more enrollment and want to reach as many potential students as possible. 

A month later, Feb. 22, 2017 a letter was sent from the Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs, David Woike, Ph.D. to Judith Kullberg, Union President. This letter was released to Echo by Larcom.

It stated that on Feb. 2, 2017 Jim Carroll and Woike met with Ken Rusinia and Kullberg to talk over the contract made and to explain everything. Kullberg was made aware of the University’s decision to partner with AP as well as the terms EMU had agreed to already. However this was several months before the launch of the AP programs, in Sep. 2017.

According to the document sent by Larcom, “It’s important to note that marketing agreements are not subject to faculty approval.” This means that no matter the opinions of EMU-AAUP, including Kullberg, Eastern Michigan University is free to make any marketing decisions they deem necessary. If EMU wants to partner with AP for financial gain, enrollment gain, and any of AP's services, that is EMU's decision. 

On Nov. 16, 2017, which would be two months after the programs went into effect, a press release was sent from Kullberg's team to Echo. According to the release, Kullberg stated: “Academic Partnerships will receive 50 percent of tuition and fees from these online degree programs, reducing EMU revenue at a time when public universities are receiving less support from the state of Michigan.” According to Provost's statements, and contract, this is not part of the agreement. The EMU representatives have stated that AP will be reimbursed for their marketing of Eastern Michigan University’s courses.

It seems the Union does not approve of the compensation AP will receive for their services. But when it comes to marketing decisions, as stated earlier, the Union and faculty do not have a say.  The miscommunication between EMU and EMU-AAUP has set the framework for the Union’s ad campaign against the partnering with AP. 

When Echo interviewed Kullberg in early Jan. 2018, and she called the AP agreement a “Walmartization of higher education,” and according to her, “these online courses could shrink class sizes in other programs, along with decreasing physical enrollment overall.” These opinionated statements are made by Kullberg, and backed by the Union advocates and their ad campaign. They are contradictory to statements made by EMU.

In another press release sent to Echo on Jan. 31, 2018, EMU-AAUP Executive Committee member Charles Cunningham said, “It’s hard to see any long-term benefit to an arrangement that gives half the tuition dollars from online programs to an outside party. And it’s just not possible to justify sending checks to Texas every semester when we are contemplating laying off our own hard-working staff members.” 

Echo cannot confirm this is true either, since EMU has not expressed publicly any plans to lay off faculty or lecturers, recently. The last time the dean of education mentioned laying off lecturers was back in 2014. The Union supporters are working on their ad campaign against AP because they don’t approve of the completely online offered degrees included in the contracted plan.

All of the information above has been provided to us from trusted sources as well as publicly available online resources. 

EMU's latest press release on the matter can be found here: http://bit.ly/2BTKWLv  

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