Message From The Dean

Our Promise to You

There is an old Chinese proverb, "If we don't change our direction we're likely to end up where we're headed."

Education, and particularly higher education, is likely headed for extremely difficult financial times--if we are not there already. The predictions are grim--some have even suggested that in the next 20 years we will see higher education privatized to a great extent. Although there is a place for private higher education, I firmly believe that quality public education can and should educate the "99 percent," and that it is a crucial component of maintaining the functioning of our country's democracy. And I believe that the U.S. democracy is worth our efforts to hold on to.

So, while I absolutely commend the dedicated faculty members following the path of working harder to keep up with these changing times, I believe it's also time to start working smarter. I am convinced that in order to maintain our democracy and to ensure economic health in the U.S., we must make significant changes to our higher education system.

There is no question that the U.S. system of higher education has served the country well over the past 150 years. However, that system seems to be misaligned with the needs of today's students, the workplace, our country, and the world. Even the most ardent supporters of the current higher education system are coming to realize that we must make changes. The question today is not do we make changes, it is what changes do we need to make?

For the School of Extended & International Education, change is one of our constants. Our unit and the programs we offer have always needed to change with the demands of the student populations--Extended Education is necessarily market-driven. We offer the courses and programs that students ask for, and then provide those programs under a simple business financial model--each course and program must at a minimum break even on cost verses revenue.

It's a simple model, but one that public higher education in general has not embraced. For the most part, public higher education operates on an anachronistic model where the students' tuition and fees pay a portion of the total cost of their education, and the district, region, or state pays for the remainder. In days gone by, that system provided widespread, affordable, quality education in California. However, these are lean times. The simple fact is that currently the state only covers about 38 percent of the costs of an SSU student's education. The balance must be made up from tuition and fees, outside funding such as grants or contracts, or other entrepreneurial activities by the university (sometimes called auxiliary activities). In fact, that is exactly what the School of Extended & International Education is--an entrepreneurial or auxiliary unit at SSU.

It is the role of the School of Extended & International Education to provide both academic credit classes and non-credit programs (e.g., workforce development classes, OLLI, and certificate programs) using the self-support business model. It is our sincere belief that our mission at Sonoma State University is to support both our on-campus and our off-campus student populations. The School of Extended Education is dedicated to that mission. In addition to continuing to expand our non-credit offerings, we are committed to working with the SSU faculty to offer the highest quality credit courses based on their curriculum. We are ready, willing, and able to help our on-campus students graduate earlier by offering academic credit classes during intersessions and summer.

We know that the SSU community will face many challenges, and we stand ready. The School of Extended & International Education will change its direction and its models as needed to best serve our students, our campus, and the region. That is our promise to you and to SSU.

Mark Merickel, Ph.D.
Professor and Dean
Senior International Officer
School of Extended Education