Council on Postsecondary Education Approves New Postsecondary Institution in Rhode Island

Providence, RI—May 20, 2015—At a meeting on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, the Council on Postsecondary Education voted unanimously to approve College Unbound’s request to operate as a postsecondary institution in the state of Rhode Island. The vote gives College Unbound the ability to grant Bachelor of Arts degrees in Organizational Leadership and Change for an initial-approval period of five years.

A degree completion college, College Unbound serves returning adult learners who have some college credits under their belts. Estimates suggest that there are as many as 110,000 Rhode Islanders who fall into this underserved group. Council Chairperson Michael Bernstein commented, “All of us on the Council are excited that this institution will open up a new pathway for hundreds of motivated Rhode Islanders who never completed their undergraduate degrees.”

The Commissioner of Postsecondary Education, Dr. Jim Purcell said, “Education is all about bringing forth the capacity that exists within people, and College Unbound offers people the opportunity to expand their minds, finish their degrees, and build better lives.” Dr. Purcell went on to say, “These types of adult degree completion programs are transformative not just for the individuals and their families, but also for our community and workforce.”

Since 2009, College Unbound has been offering college credit through affiliation with other institutions of higher learning, most recently Charter Oak State College based in Connecticut. The College Unbound/Charter Oak State College partnership will continue while College Unbound pursues accreditation. “The Council’s approval represents a tremendous step for the future of College Unbound,” said College Unbound’s President, Dr. Dennis Littky. “We will continue to be talent finders and developers for Rhode Island, but under our own umbrella. When our students come to us, many are stuck—unable to advance in their careers without a degree. We help them build the skills they need and support them through completion so they can be leaders in Rhode Island.”

The College Unbound model combines online courses with an in-depth, project-based curriculum that is designed around students’ professional experience and interests. Students meet regularly with faculty advisors within a learning cohort. Current student Bella Noka attributed her success to the support she has received from her cohort: “When I think I can’t make it because of my family commitments, there’s always someone who says, ‘I’ve been there, and I did it, even with more kids at home, so you can too.’”

College Unbound has helped four cohorts of students graduate and its alumni work in many sectors, especially throughout human and social services fields in Rhode Island. College Unbound’s Provost, Dr. Adam Bush pointed to the versatility of College Unbound’s degree program: “The BA in Organizational Leadership & Change is a degree program that sees adult students as ‘scholar-practitioners’ who use their workplace and community-based learning as the core of their degree. It allows them to be change makers in their fields and to grow in their careers.”

When asked about expanding degree offerings at the May 6 meeting, Dr. Littky stressed that the institution would remain student-focused and that plans to expand would come only after the professional interests of their students became clear. Any additional degree or certificate programs would require separate approval from the Council.

The next step for College Unbound is to apply for accreditation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). In the meantime, the program expects to graduate 14 students this year and enroll another 50 new students in its fall programs.

For further information, contact:
Robin McGill
Interim Communications Officer
RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
(401) 456-6018