College comes to the workplace

May 04, 1992|By Carol Kleiman | Carol Kleiman,Chicago Tribune

Two nights a week, Frank J. Walter, an MCI Communications Corp. manager based in Rye Brook, N.Y., goes to college to earn his MBA.

Many full-time employees attend college classes after work, but there's one thing different about the way Mr. Walter goes to college:

Fordham University's Graduate School of Business Administration in New York, where he is enrolled, comes to MCI's corporate offices in Manhattan and teaches its fully accredited MBA program right there.

Mr. Walter and 32 other managers from MCI's area offices show up at corporate headquarters from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays for classes.

The 18-month accelerated master's program, underwritten by MCI, an $8.43 billion company, is tailored to provide expertise in information technology. It also includes courses in finance, accounting, law and management.

"I signed up for the program to keep up with the pace of change that is taking place in telecommunications," said Mr. Walter, 30, a graduate of Bowling Green University.

The MBA program may be expanded to employees in other locations, he said. "MCI emphasizes training, and since we could not provide a master's degree program ourselves, we brought the classroom to the boardroom," he said.

Bringing the campus to the workplace is a natural outgrowth of the need for skilled workers. "Classes on company premises are more attractive and more easily available for employees to attend," said Curtis Plott, executive vice president of the American Society for Training and Development in Alexandria, Va.

"Offering college degrees is a win-win opportunity in which workers get a degree that has status and value to themselves and their current employer, too," he said. Highly skilled employees are especially valuable in the marketplace today, and employers get a tremendous return on their money."

Mr. Plott points out that "the Internal Revenue Code allows employers to pay tuition without employees having to pay tax on it." And, he says, on-site courses makes it possible for employees to get their degrees without interruption from work.

"In the past, many corporations have wanted colleges to come in and offer degree programs, but the colleges weren't interested," said Philip J. Harkins, president of Linkage Inc., a Lexington, Mass., company that specializes in helping colleges and corporations set up educational programs. "Today, because of demographics, applications are down and colleges are seeking new markets."

Mr. Harkins is also president of a the Corporate Education Forum, which is made up of colleges and universities that want to work in the corporate arena.

"There's enormous worldwide competition that is spawning the need to raise the work force to another level," he said. "To be able to offer college degrees in the workplace is a global competitive advantage for U.S. companies."

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