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March 9, 2001

Master's program is proof of strength in numbers

by Anne Krapfl
Six public universities, including Iowa State, are joining forces to offer what none of them can on their own: a master's degree in family financial planning. The human sciences colleges at the six (at Iowa State, that's Family and Consumer Sciences) launched the distance education program fall semester, after lots of discussions among their deans, registrars and continuing education directors.

"It's a wonderful example of leveraging resources," said Mary Winter, FCS associate dean for research and graduate education. "None of the member schools has the faculty to do this on our own. But, if every school can teach two courses, we've got a program."

The curriculum has been approved by the Board of Examiners of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, which means that graduates of the program are eligible to take the Certified Financial Planner exam.

Joining Iowa State in offering the master's program are North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Montana State, Kansas State and the University of Nebraska. The six are part of the 10-school Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, formed in 1994 to collaborate on training, policies and programs. The family financial planning program is the first to emerge from the alliance, but Winter said faculty also are planning joint programs in gerontology, youth development and family and consumer science teacher education. Not all will be degree programs; some will be certification programs, she said.

A $1 million grant from the U.S Department of Education's Learning Anywhere Anytime Partnership is helping pay for things such as meetings among the partners, Web site development and course development.

The new master's program has a set curriculum with no elective courses. The Web-based courses are being phased in over three years. By fall 2003, when all the courses have been offered once, each course will be taught every year. Charles Hatcher and Susan Crull, both members of the human development and family studies faculty, are developing Iowa State's course contributions to the program with assistance from FCS instructional development specialist Karla Embleton. Hatcher will teach a course on investments this fall; Crull will first teach her real estate course in summer 2002.

Winter said 24 students were enrolled in the program last fall, including two who enrolled through Iowa State. Another three ISU students have since been admitted. Winter estimates she has received close to 50 inquiries about the program.

"It's geared for the adult student who wants this degree but also needs some flexibility. (In three years) when all the courses have been phased in, they'll be able to take the course load they want at the time of year they want."

Students are admitted to one school but register at and are billed by whichever school(s) are offering the courses they want that semester. Cooperation among university registrars allows all enrollment and grade records to be compiled on the home school's transcripts. The master's degree is awarded by the student's home university.

To avoid large tuition swings for students, the courses are offered through extended and continuing education. Winter said four of the participating six schools don't distinguish between residents and non-residents to price their continuing ed credits.

Inquiries about the program can be directed to Winter, 4-5982.

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