Reverse decision to close Eckerd College's 39 year old Program for Experienced Learners

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Since the decision was announced on Sept. 9, 2016 to discontinue the Program for Experienced Learners, a large number of students, faculty, and alumni have expressed grave concerns. Seeing a program as successful and long-running as PEL abruptly close because "it can no longer compete" immediately drew suspicion. After months of research, an increasing number of people are outright challenging the motives behind the closure.

Eckerd College President, Dr. Donald Eastman took meetings with several students and alumni in an attempt to address our concerns surrounding the closure. However, most left with an even greater feeling of deceit. Upon receiving a signed declaration outlining concerns and suggestions, Dr. Eastman's first words were "I don't appreciate being lectured to." He and his staff then went on to make the case for closure, which does not hold up to scrutiny. 

After hundreds of hours of due diligence, there is strong reason to believe that PEL was targeted for closure years ago and intentionally starved of adequate resources until enrollments declined to a point where closure could be financially justified. The fact that PEL continued to deliver a superior academic experience to adult learners for so long and under such circumstances reinforces the need for such a program. Furthermore, it speaks to the quality of the amazing people responsible.  

Public concerns regarding the actions of the administration include but are not limited to:

  • Potential sabotage of a premier academic program due to underlying negative sentiment towards adult education.
  • Possible misleading of the student body, faculty, and public as to the primary reasons for closure. 
  • Continued enrollment of new students up until Aug. 2016 which could be a consumer protection issue.
  • Unrealistic timeline (approx. 12 months) for currently enrolled students to complete degree plans.
  • Students forced to enroll in more courses than they are capable of completing without significant reduction in academic performance or work/life/school balance.
  • Capitalization on fees for increased CLEP/DSST testing and portfolio evaluations due to closure timeline.
  • Inadequacy of teach out agreements with comparable programs.
  • Lack of academic support for students rushing to graduate such as the premature termination of writing coaches during a period of record writing exhibit submissions.
  • Potential misleading of accrediting body as it relates to the substantive change granted in 2015 for PEL to offer over 50% of classes through the Tampa campus (seemingly just for show).
  • Potential misleading of accrediting body as it relates to the application for substantive change (program closure) and reasons for discontinuation.

For 39 years PEL has served the community by offering a quality liberal arts bachelors degree to adults willing to put in the time, resources, and effort. We implore you to not let the mismanagement and evident negligence of a few adversely impact the many. With the proper integration of the residential program and PEL (as suggested in your strategic plan), there's no reason why Eckerd College cannot continue to be a pioneer and innovator in liberal arts education. 

We ask the Eckerd College Board of Trustees to take immediate action to halt this decision until an honest, independent audit and assessment of PEL can be conducted. We also ask that the administration be brought under review for breach of fiduciary duties to the College and its stakeholders. Furthermore, we ask the stewards of Eckerd College to embrace the concept of shared governance and begin operating in the spirit of full transparency. 

To make a tax deductible donation or for more details please go to https://www.savingeckerdpel.com.  

https://www.facebook.com/SavingEckerdPEL/ 

Questions or concerns about our efforts to save the program or information from confidential sources can be directed to admin@savingeckerdpel.com. 

"If transformative change is to come from within the academy, it won't come from a great dinosaur of a university. The age of mammals originated with an agile shrew-like creature and occurred only after environmental disruption by a massive comet. I would say that if a new age comes to the academy, it too will come after disruption and originate with a Triton-like one."

- Chairman, Eckerd College Board of Trustees (2013)



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