GOP Plan to End PBS Funding Could Hurt `Distance Learning': Broadcast Programs Help Minorities Older Students Get Degrees

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GOP Plan to End PBS Funding Could Hurt 'Distance Learning': Broadcast. Programs Help Minorities, Older Students Get Degrees

by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

The current proposals to eliminate or reduce federal funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) have educators and public radio and TV officials worried that efforts to boost distance learning in higher education may suffer. They are also contemplating the worst that could happen should the corporation's $285 million endowment be reduced or eliminated.

Although many people are familiar with popular programs on Public Broadcasting System stations, such as "Sesame Street" and "Masterpiece Theater," educational services offered through the nation's colleges and universities often are overlooked by the general public, PBS officials say. But each year hundreds of universities and community colleges provide access to higher education through numerous programs for adult learners offered through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

A new degree program, now in the pilot stage, aims to use distance learning to boost college participation among minorities. "Going the Distance," which is being tested at 60 two-year and four-year institutions around the country, will allow busy adults to earn college diplomas without leaving their homes.

"They do boost minority involvement. We are trying to encourage colleges to reach underserved and minority populations," said Will Philipp, director of the Adult Learning Service for PBS. Pilot sites at Wayne County Community College outside of Detroit and Harold Washington College in Chicago attract minority enrollments in excess of 50 percent, Philipp said. "Our hope is that we can get colleges to do specific campaigns to attract minority students, and then we can use those experiences to tell others how they did it, so we will have models to replicate," Philipp said.

About 90, or 25 percent, of all public television stations, and 52 percent of public radio stations, are licensed to colleges and universities. As one of the leading providers of college-level courses through television, PBS serves more than 350,000 students through 1,191 campuses annually. …