Schoharie County

SUNY Cobleskill adds options for four Chinese colleges

With a new partnership, SUNY Cobleskill is helping to broaden the vocational education options for s
One of the new greenhouses is seen at the new Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources at SUNY Cobleskill following a ribbon cutting on Friday, October 24, 2014.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
One of the new greenhouses is seen at the new Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources at SUNY Cobleskill following a ribbon cutting on Friday, October 24, 2014.

With a new partnership, SUNY Cobleskill is helping to broaden the vocational education options for students at four colleges in China while creating a path to a bachelor’s degree in the U.S.

While the program, called Path Pro, was just announced last week, it has been in the works for about four years. It aims to provide Chinese students with vocational courses not currently offered in their country, as well as the option to eventually transfer class credits toward a degree at SUNY Cobleskill.

“We are forging a new educational path for a significant population of Chinese post-secondary students,” Susan Jagendorf-Sobierajski, executive director of International Education at SUNY Cobleskill, said in a news release.

The college is currently working with four partner colleges in China, according to Jagendorf-Sobierajski, though that number could grow. Two of those focus on information technology, one on environment and energy technology and one on business administration, she said.

Traditionally, she said, the Chinese educational system would treat those programs as very separate from university programs. If a student from a vocational school wanted a university degree, he or she would have to take a one-shot competitive exam to enter the school.

“They would have one chance to earn a high enough score to be accepted into university there,” she said. “So this gives them another opportunity.”

As long as the courses are compatible and the students have performed well in them, she said, they’ll be able to receive credit if they wish to transfer to SUNY Cobleskill after about three years of study. The only additional requirement would likely be an English language proficiency exam.

One of the partner programs is in its second year of education, another has just enrolled its first class of students, and the other two are currently beginning enrollment.

There is no way now to guess the number of students SUNY Cobleskill will see from the program, school officials said.

The program also involves cross-training for instructors, with SUNY Cobleskill faculty visiting the Chinese vocational programs (the first went last year) and six Chinese faculty currently training at SUNY Cobleskill for three months before returning to lead vocational programs back home.

In developing the Path Pro program, SUNY leaders worked with the China Education Association for International Exchange, an arm of the Chinese government.

Jagendorf-Sobierajski said improving vocational training has become a “major priority for national education reform” in China in recent years.

“The reason for this shift in thinking is the recognition that effective vocational college education can provide an important channel through which to boost economic growth, promote employment, improve people’s livelihood and address issues pertinent to agriculture, rural areas and farmers,” she said in the release.

So far, SUNY Cobleskill is the first institution in the country to develop this kind of program — others are interested, said Jagendorf-Sobierajski, but “no one’s gotten as far along as we have.”

And while the most direct benefits may be for students in China, she said the program will further expand the horizons for both students and faculty at SUNY Cobleskill, as well.

“We believe very strongly that international education is critical for our institution to be relevant and to continue to grow and to meet the needs of a larger society,” she said. “And we believe very strongly that these international partnerships help us carve a very, very important niche in U.S. academia and world academia. And this has been supported by our administration and it’s being well recognized across SUNY.”

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