How a college and coding school are partnering to bring new courses to campus

Education Dive

By Natalie Schwartz

The nation’s liberal arts colleges are at a crossroads. As enrollment sags and the public increasingly questions the rising cost of a degree, more small private colleges are closing or getting creative with their program offerings and educational models to stay afloat.

There are a number of approaches to the latter. Five of them are detailed in a 2017 paper by Mary Marcy, president of Dominican University of California. They include pivoting online, doubling down on traditional education and adding professional programs.

Dominican, which sits less than 20 miles north of San Francisco, recently made changes to keep its curriculum current. Last year, the college teamed up with Make School, a San Francisco-based coding program, in a first-of-its-kind partnership to offer its students a computer science minor. In turn, Make School gets to offer an accredited bachelor’s degree in applied computer science through Dominican.

Since the announcement, both institutions have tested new course offerings on their campuses, with plans to officially launch the programs this fall. Through a three-to-five-year incubation period with Dominican’s accreditor, WASC Senior College and University Commission, the university will help Make School earn its own accreditation.

Earlier this month, we sat down with Marcy at an event in Baltimore to learn more about the partnership and her thoughts on the future of small colleges.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.

EDUCATION DIVE: How do the computer science courses fit with Dominican’s programs, and how many students do you hope to enroll?

MARY MARCY: We want to make the computer science courses fit well with our students’ interests and needs. For example, it makes sense to align certain coding courses with our strong major in biology and use data analytics courses to support some of the students majoring in business. We don’t have a specific enrollment target, but we have a sense of what the minor will become and how it will integrate effectively with the institution.

What has been the biggest challenge throughout the trial run?

MARCY: It’s just cultural. As much as we have really similar values and a similar profile of students, Make School is still a start-up that wants to move really fast and nimbly, and we’re still an institution that’s been around for over