The University can do more to make educational opportunities available to its employees, according to a report presented by the Employee Assembly’s Education Committee at an E.A. meeting Wednesday.
Several factors — including educational and financial constraints — limit the potential of staff members to take classes at Cornell and elsewhere, said Lavanya Sayam, a member of the Education Committee and a researcher in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Sayam said that the Employee Degree Program, which enables employees to obtain Cornell degrees while working for the University, is plagued by a lack of centralized information. Employees have no single place to learn about the classes offered through EDP or professional development courses outside the scope of the program, Sayam said.
“I think the program is a great benefit, and we want to make sure employees are aware that they have this benefit. There’s a lot of people who may not be thinking about taking classes, and we want to bring to their attention,” said Tanya Grove, chair of the E.A. Grove explained that employees at the University can take up to four credits at Cornell for free.
Sayam added that the University should also do more to provide reimbursements for earning degrees at other universities while working at Cornell.
If the University provided more support, Sayam said, employees would have better access to degree programs at other institutions.
The EDP is not unique in programs for staff that face a shortage of funding, said Ari Epstein, assistant director of University assemblies.
“[There are] limitations to resources in every area,” Epstein said. “There’s only so much money out there for all these programs.”
Sayam also said that creating a comprehensive awareness program about the EDP would ensure the maximum usage of the program, as some employees do not know their opportunities.
Epstein agreed that it is “always a challenge” to reach Cornell’s support staff.
For instance, “many employees are not aware that they can actually use the four credit free extramural course to pursue some form of education with supervisory support,” Sayam said.
Sayam added a lack of awareness could in part be eradicated by the Education Committee of the E.A.
“The Education Committee should be an active voice like the E.A. to create awareness on existing educational opportunities,” she said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the E.A. approved a recommendation from the committee to create a survey for previous employee degree program candidates. Questions will include employees’ experience, the ease of balancing between work and education, the awareness and source of knowledge and any suggestions about how to improve the efficiency of the program.
The E.A. approved the recommendation unanimously and suggested the creation of a separate survey for supervisors who authorize the employee’s desire to pursue a course and to learn the decisions and factors that influence a supervisor’s decision.