#BizVoiceExtra: Tuition Support Makes a Difference

Balancing work, family and life is challenging – throwing in a full-time, or even part-time, education on top can seem near impossible.

One thing that can ease the struggle of pursuing a degree as a working adult? Employer tuition support.

Employers that provide tuition support are making a long-term investment in their employees, and employees take that investment to heart. I learned that recently when speaking with several people for the March/April edition of BizVoice® about their experiences with tuition support and the benefits of attaining those advanced degrees through WGU Indiana.

(You can read that story in our new edition here.)

All of those interviewed couldn’t speak more highly of the impact of knowing their employer is actively supporting them. The return on investment for those companies yields people that are devoted to the organization, on top of the more tangible benefits of skilled and educated employees.

Dan Minnick

Dan Minnick

One of the WGU Indiana graduates featured in the story is Dan Minnick, a nursing professional development educator at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie. I asked representatives from IU Health to provide more information on their tuition support program.

An abridged Q&A via email with Lauren Zink, vice president of Total Rewards and Shared Services at IU Health, follows:

BV: What is the benefit to IU Health as an employer when its team members have finished their degrees or have completed advanced degrees?

LZ: “Our goal at IU Health is to provide long-term career opportunities for our team members. We have a wide variety of jobs and a continuous need to fill them with dedicated, talented individuals. As our team members obtain the education they need to qualify and apply for new positions, it allows IU Health to retain them as valued team members and provides them with the opportunities to advance their careers. This mutually beneficial partnership leads to stronger employee engagement and retention, and that too is a very important priority at IU Health.”

BV: What would you say to employers who aren’t currently supporting team members with tuition support? How has this been beneficial for your organization?

LZ: “We understand that most organizations have many competing priorities and limited dollars to invest. However, the return on this investment is one that can be tracked and measured, and has a significant positive impact on the culture. When we invest in our most valuable asset, our people, we build a sustainable workforce that can grow with the organization. It also sends a very positive message to job seekers that their ongoing career development will be a priority at IU Health.”

BV: What do you tell your team members who aren’t sure if they want to go back to school?

LZ: “Education requires a time, energy and resource commitment. Only an individual can truly discern if they are ready to embark on this journey, and if they are, we are there to support them.”

Tech Talk: Catching Up on Some Conversations

Podcast

Two of the focus areas of the Indiana Chamber’s EchoChamber podcast are education and technology. Both take center stage in the early months of 2018.

Two conversations – with Marian University President Dan Elsener and WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber – are available now. Three more to come feature Trine University President Earl Brooks (January 30), Salesforce Marketing Cloud CEO Bob Stutz (date to be scheduled) and South Bend’s Rich Carlton, president and COO of Data Realty (February 27).

Innovation is one of the themes that carries throughout these discussions. Elsener was greeted with a great deal of skepticism when he announced plans to start a medical school at the private Indianapolis university. Its first graduates came in 2017. That is among a variety of initiatives that has Marian well on the way to doubling in size by 2025.

WGU Indiana brought a new online, competency-based approach when it became the state’s eighth public university in 2010. It offers an avenue for working students (80% are employed full time) to advance their skills and earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Trine has expanded its academic and athletic offerings, with significant growth both geographically and in enrollment.

Stutz has touted Indiana’s tech environment since his arrival in 2016. Carlton is passionate about data management and community development. We know you will enjoy their insights and getting to know them a little better.

You can listen to all EchoChamber conversations online. Subscribe at iTunes, GooglePlay or wherever you get your podcasts to be notified about the latest episode. Also, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts.

Workforce Survey: Business Input Needed

The greatest asset of any business is its people. Unfortunately, many organization are facing challenges in workforce and talent development efforts. The Indiana Chamber seeks to provide assistance through various policy and program efforts.

Currently, the Indiana Chamber Foundation’s 10th annual survey of Indiana employers is taking place. Hundreds of human resources professionals and company leaders have already shared their insights on skills shortages, training needs, incentives and more.

The Chamber Foundation is partnering with Walker, an Indiana-based customer experience consulting firm. The survey sponsor is WGU Indiana. Check out its brief video on “Why We’re Different”:

Among the recent trends: Companies that left Indiana jobs unfilled in 2015 due to under-qualified applicants increased to 45% – compared to 43% and 39%, respectively, for the prior two years.

In addition, 27% of respondents identified filling their workforce and meeting talent needs as ­­their biggest challenge. Another 49% categorized the talent needs as “challenging but not their biggest challenge.” The 76% total exceeds the numbers for 2015 (74%; 24% biggest challenge) and 2014 (72%; 20% biggest challenge).

View more on the 2016 results. If you have not received the survey from Walker and are interested in participating or learning more, contact Shelley Huffman at shuffman@indianachamber.com or (317) 264-7548.

Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives

allison_barber_headshotThe following post by WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber was originally published on the WGU Indiana blog in recognition of Women’s History Month. 

The story I can weave about some amazing women took place in one day. March 11, 2015, began by sharing a donut with my great-aunt who was celebrating her 92nd birthday. She declared that eating a donut while lounging in bed was the best way to start her new year.

Nell was a school secretary for 40 years, a church musician for 55 years and the person in our family most likely to have been on the Vaudeville stage, had the timing been right.

After donuts with Nell, I visited my mom. A wonderful schoolteacher who spends her life investing in other people’s success, one person at a time. She is a believer in people and their individual ability.

From there, I jumped on a plane to Washington, D.C. I visited my dear friend, Vivian, who, at 96, is triumphantly fighting back from pneumonia and shingles. Our conversation was about her deep concern and prayers for other people and her need for an updated iPhone.

Then I headed to an AARP event where I learned about Dr. Ethel Andrus. Ethel was a teacher who became the first female principal in California and then went on to form the National Retired Teachers Association. Her goal was to promote her philosophy of productive aging. At the age of 73, she formed AARP. Dr. Andrus lived by the following guiding principles:

  • To promote independence, dignity and purpose for older persons;
  • To enhance the quality of life for older persons; and
  • To encourage older people “To serve, not to be served.”

My day was shaping up to be an amazing one filled with diverse and fascinating women, but there was still more to come.

The main purpose of the event was the presentation of the Andrus Award to Senator Elizabeth Dole for her work in establishing her foundation that addresses the issues of military caregivers.

Elizabeth has held two cabinet-level positions, served as the president of the American Red Cross, and was elected Senator from North Carolina. She has built her career through service and is a shining example of Dr. Andrus’ philosophy, “To serve and not to be served.”

Jo Ann Jenkins, the CEO of AARP, introduced Elizabeth. Prior to the post at AARP, Jo Ann accomplished groundbreaking work as the COO of the Library of Congress. She is the recipient of Women in Technology Leadership Award, the Library of Congress Distinguished Service Award and Nonprofit Times’ Power and Influence Top 50. In her remarks, she challenged the audience to recognize the dignity in all humans. She is focused on helping people “age without fear.”

And finally, I closed out the day (yes, this is still the same day), with my pal, Susan Davis. The CEO of her own public affairs business in D.C., Susan also serves as the chairman of the board of Vital Voices. A nonprofit organization that identifies invests and brings visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities. Susan works tirelessly to improve the lives of everyone she encounters.

What are the common threads that allow me to “weave together the story” of these women? Passion, Purpose and Priorities. The careers range from high to low visibility, and the notoriety ranges from international acclaim to a family’s favorite aunt to sit by at the dinner table. But each woman demonstrates a passion for what they believe in, a purpose for their work, and the priority of putting others before themselves.

It was a great day to encounter wonderful women and weave together their diverse but powerful stories.

Analyzing the WGU Benefits

Gov. Daniels announced the creation of WGU (Western Governors University) Indiana last month to increase higher ed options in the state and hopefully drive more students to completion. An Inside Higher Ed article (read it here) earlier this week featured the Indiana effort and the potential of similar arrangements in other locales.

Indiana Chamber education expert Derek Redelman commented on that story, to provide more information and to further explain the benefits for Hoosiers. Again, the full story is above for those who need the background; the majority of Derek’s post is featured below and enhances the understanding.

The formation of WGU Indiana, along with Gov. Daniels’ strong public endorsement, offers a terrific opportunity for Indiana learners – for all the reasons that the story portrays. But there are more components to this development than is even noted in the story: First, the price structure is for time rather than credit hours or semesters. $3,000 will buy the student as many courses as he/she can complete in the six-month time period. So there’s a direct incentive – and a reward – for working hard.

Second, start times are flexible – with new groups starting every month of the year. So there’s no more waiting around for a new semester to begin. Once that adult learner takes the initiative to pursue his/her options, he/she can get started almost immediately – while the motivation is still high. That should lead to fewer lost opportunities. Third, completion/advancement is based on competency demonstration and is flexible to the individual learner’s pace. So for those students who need a rerfresher rather than a semester-long course, or for those who are able/willing to work faster than the traditional college pace, there is opportunity (and incentive) to do so.

While none of this is completely new, it is unique – as best that I am aware – as the default approach for any other institution operating in Indiana.

I do hope that the approaches offered by WGU will catch hold in other Indiana institutions. Yes, there are other online learning opportunities offered by nearly all – maybe every single one – of our public institutions. But how many of those are offered with the incentives/components noted in the story? I am aware of none. As for course articulation agreements that will be helpful to students, my observations indicate that we remain far, far away from achieving the level of convenience necessary.

I recall in the 1990s sitting through three years of monthly meetings – lasting 4+ hours per meeting – as our state institutions struggled to meet a legislative mandate for just 10 entry-level, for-credit courses to be tranferrable across all public institutions. Yes, the ’90s are "ancient history" at this point. And yes, Indiana is now well beyond that initial 10-course mandate. But the process for expanding on those articulation agreements remains incredibly arduous and the results of current agreements remain confusing to students. Indeed, there are courses taught at one branch of our intitutions that do not even transfer to other branches of the same institution. As yet another development resulting from the creation of WGU Indiana, it is my understanding that every single course taught at our community college system will be transferrable to WGU – and they did that without a years-long, committee laden, course-by-course, campus-by-campus process.

I remain a biased advocate for Indiana’s entire higher education system, and I completely agree with those who suggest that there are terrific opportunities here. But even the best can get better. And the addition of WGU Indiana adds one more institution to that portfolio of great options.