推廣教育「點石成金」 ──文大一年賺五億

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2002 / 11月

文‧滕淑芬


今年三月,文化大學以四億多元標下中華路上的新生報大樓,財力令人刮目相看。一般來說,私立大學的收入以學雜費為主,但即使學生人數足夠的大學,也頂多只能維持收支平衡,要有盈餘,就需另闢蹊徑,其中開辦推廣教育就是「點石成金」的良方。而文化大學堪稱箇中翹楚,每年營收高達五億元,扣除成本後,可以回饋給校本部二億多元。文化大學如何讓推廣教育成為賺錢的金雞母?


位於和平東路、建國南路口的文化大學推廣教育部是一棟地上十層、地下四層的大樓,從早到晚人潮進進出出。就像一所小型的大學,一年開課三百多門、一千四百多班、學員二萬三千多人,從熱門的資訊電腦、工商管理、英日外文,到室內設計、插花、電影欣賞等藝文課程,甚至極為小眾的防腐處理,一應俱全。

走進大樓,一樓走道旁附設咖啡廳,飄來陣陣咖啡香;地下四樓是九月才啟用的數位學習中心,請來設計誠品書店的建築師林洲民規劃,三百坪的空間裡配置了無線上網區、多媒體製作區、小型視聽會議室、角落劇場等,參觀過的人都稱讚是「超級豪華的網咖」。

從負債到盈餘

說起十六年前投入推廣教育市場,一手打造文大推廣教育部的靈魂人物張冠群主任說,他也是文化大學會計主任,民國七十五年時,文化大學負債嚴重,文大一方面把招生不佳的系所如海洋系、家政系等停招或調整方向,一方面想其他方法開源。在學校管錢的他,老被同事嘲笑,「我們要做任何事,你只會搖頭說沒錢,有本事就去賺賺看。」當時教育部長李煥建議他們像美國大學一樣開辦終身教育,於是文大決定以推廣教育為試金石。

當時建國南路的現址是再興小學的校區,張冠群和再興小學校長達成協議,先承租兩年再考慮購置。還好,三年後台北市的地價尚未狂飆,文化大學買下後就興建大樓。幾年後,這塊鄰近中山高速公路建國交流道的交通要道已成黃金地段,麥當勞、星巴克都曾上門商議,希望承租一樓。

「但我們不靠租金過活,當然要把最好的空間留給學員使用,」張冠群說。不過,八十三年完工的大樓由於興建時間過於倉促,許多設備並不理想;八十九年又重新整建,才成為現在新穎的外貌。

張冠群不諱言,文大投入推廣教育市場的第二年就小有盈餘,而學校也將賺的錢投入軟硬體設備的改善。「教室就是我的生財工具,」他說,八十九年新大樓整建完畢,教室增加了三十多間,結果那一年的盈餘大幅躍進,從前一年的一億四千多萬元,增加到二億四千多萬元;開課數也從九百六十班增加到一千二百多班,學員則從二萬人增加到二萬三千多人。

「裕隆」翻身

一位在私校任職的行政人員說,文化大學辦學不佳、以商業掛帥,但經營推廣教育確實有成效,原因在於他們勇於砸錢投資,而課程多元化、服務專業化也是利基。目前推廣教育部的員工有二百八十多人,其中二十多人專門負責課程規劃。

張冠群指出,這個市場從一開始競爭就很激烈。十多年前台灣終身教育的觀念不如現在普及,幾所綜合大學如台大、政大、輔仁、實踐大學等都在辦推廣教育。由於沒有經驗,第一年招生情況非常差,張冠群重新思考定位,利用文化大學的專長,開辦地政班、兒保班,成為土地代書和幼稚園老師的在職進修管道。多年下來,估計光是地政班的結業學員就達到一萬三千人。以後課程逐漸延伸,越開越多,累積到現在六大類課程、三百多門課。

「我們非常清楚自己的定位,不要和公立大學競爭,我們是一部價廉物美的裕隆車,」張冠群說,還記得民國七十年代台大開辦電腦班,在舟山路報名,結果當天早上七點半就額滿了,讓他們羨慕得不得了。他直言,「台大、政大的品牌比我們強,台大只要開課就立刻額滿,我們卻要花許多力氣才能把學生塞滿。」

累積多年心得,張冠群說,「對社會需求要很敏感,我們勇於嘗試新課程,將課程分系列就是我們想出來的,而且不斷與人力資源專家討論職場的趨勢。」

此外,推廣教育部的師資也不靠文化大學支援。「我們的定位是實務導向,不能被學生問倒,這個挑戰很殘酷,所以從業界找師資,」張冠群說,他們每一種課程都會對學員做問卷調查,只要學員有抱怨,馬上和老師溝通,如果學員的反映確實,而老師又無法改善,隨即換老師。

耕耘非學分班

近年由於政府財源減縮,對大學的補助逐年減少,各大學紛紛叫窮之際,也設法廣闢財源。每學分收費三千到一萬多元的在職專班、EMBA班,就是各大學的生財之道。

不過,張冠群並不看好學分班市場,直到今年九月,文大推廣教育部才開設第一個國際企業學分班,招收二十五名學生,一學分一萬五千元,聘請英美、大陸老師。「一百多個大學都在辦學分班,學分班開越多、越會給人賣文憑的印象,」他說,何況現在大學錄取率已高達百分之六、七十,那有這麼多人需要學分呢!

「我們主攻非學分班市場,提供各種終身學習的課程,」張冠群說,景氣好時,進修為投資自己;景氣不佳時,為了保住工作、增加實力,更要進修。

目前文大推廣教育部在台北市有建國南路、忠孝東路兩棟辦公大樓,新莊也有分部;幾年前也陸續將觸角伸向台中、高雄。除了維持既有的辦學成果,遠距教學也是未來發展的重點,目前在網路上已有一百門課。張冠群並擬定一個「三年品質提升計劃」──任何時間只要學員對課程稍有不滿、說要退費,絕對無條件退還,希望三年內做到。「看起來很吃虧,但最後絕對佔便宜,」張冠群說,這才是建立品牌的致勝關鍵。

p.038

文化大學推廣教育部勇於砸錢投資,一年吸引二萬多名學員走進教室。(楊戩攝)

p.041

學生人數眾多的私立大學,不應讓財務結構太過依賴學雜費收入。(本刊資料)

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EN

A Golden Goose: CCU's School of Continuing Education

Teng Sue-feng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Phil Newell

This March, Chinese Culture Uni-versity (CCU) won the tender to purchase the Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News building on Taipei's Chunghua Road with a bid of NT$400 million, displaying astonishing financial resources. Generally speaking, private universities like CCU depend on tuition and fees from students for their income, but even when they have their full complement of students, at most they can break even, so they have to find outside sources of income in order to make a profit. Of these, "continuing education" has become a formula for turning lead into gold, and in this regard CCU has been a huge success. It boasts annual revenues of NT$500 million, which, after deducting costs, leaves the main campus with a surplus of NT$200 million. How has CCU turned continuing education into a goose that lays golden eggs?


The building of the CCU School of Continuing Education (SCE), located at the corner of Hoping East Road and Chienkuo South Road in Taipei, has ten stories above ground and four floors below ground; crowds of people pour through the doors day and night. It is a mini-university in its own right, with more than 300 subjects, 1400 classes, and 23,000 students. It has everything you can imagine, from the hottest subjects like computers, business administration, English and Japanese, to more cultured offerings like interior design, flower arranging, and film appreciation, and even a class in how to do autopsies, for which attendance is not what you would call lively.

When you enter the building, the fragrance of java wafts across from the coffee shop on the first floor. The four levels downstairs constitute the digital learning center, which was opened for use only in September. The architect Lin Chou-min, who designed the immensely successful Eslite bookstore chain, was brought in to lay out the learning center. The more than 1000 square meter space includes a wireless Internet zone, a multimedia production area, small audiovisual conference rooms, and a corner theater. Visitors cannot help but exclaim that it is like a "super-luxurious Internet cafe."

From debt to surplus

The man to ask about CCU's decision to enter the continuing education market 16 years ago is Chang Kuan-chun, the moving spirit who has virtually single-handedly built the SCE. He recalls that back in 1986, when he was the director of accounting at CCU, the school was facing serious debts. On one hand they tried to reduce costs, for example by eliminating or restructuring programs which attracted few students (such as marine science or home economics), and on the other to find new sources of income. Colleagues at school were always making fun of him saying, "Whatever we want to do, you just shake your head and say there's no money. If you're so clever, why don't you see if you can earn some money yourself!" The then minister of education, Li Huan, suggested that they follow the example of American universities and offer lifetime education, and as a result CCU decided to try their luck on extension education.

In those days, the site where the SCE now stands on Chienkuo South Road was occupied by the Tsaihsing Primary School. Chang reached an agreement with the principal of the primary school that CCU would rent the premises for two years and then consider buying. Fortunately, three years later land prices in Taipei had not yet begun to skyrocket, and CCU bought the land to build a high-rise. Within a few years this piece of land right at the Chienkuo Interchange of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Freeway had become worth its weight in gold, and both McDonald's and Starbucks came forward hoping to rent out the first floor.

Both were turned down, Chang explains, because "we don't live off of rents, and of course we wanted to save the best space for the students." It should be noted that the building completed in 1994 left much to be desired because construction was overly hasty; the new facade that you can see today is the result of major renovation work in 2000.

Chang says that the SCE began showing a small surplus in its second year, and CCU decided to invest the profits in upgrading facilities. "Classrooms are the tools of our trade," he says. When the renovation work was completed in 2000, there were more than 30 additional classrooms, and as a result profits for that year zoomed to more than NT$240 million from about NT$140 million the year before. The number of classes also sharply increased, from 960 to more than 1200, and the number of students rose from 20,000 to over 23,000.

Economy class

An administrator at a private school suggests that academic quality at CCU suffers because commercial interests are given top priority. But CCU is nonetheless able to do well because they have the courage to invest large amounts in continuing education, offer a wide variety of classes, and are professional in their services. Currently more than 280 people work in the SCE, with about two dozen working exclusively on curriculum design and planning.

Chang says that competition in this market has been intense right from the start. A decade or so ago the idea of lifetime education was not nearly so widespread as it is today, and a number of comprehensive universities-including National Taiwan University (Taida), National Chengchi University (Chengda), Fu Jen University, and Shih Chien University-were already offering continuing education. Because CCU lacked experience, in the first year they did very poorly in recruiting students. Chang then reassessed how the school could position itself in the market, and take best advantage of the strengths of CCU. He began classes in real estate administration and childcare, creating a channel for continuing professional training for real-estate agents and kindergarten teachers. It is estimated that over the years 13,000 students have completed the real estate class alone. Since then the scope of classes has steadily broadened, and today there are six major categories and more than 300 course offerings.

"We are very clear about our own role. We are not trying to compete with the national universities, but are like an economy class car-inexpensive but effective," says Chang. He still recalls how back in the 1980s when Taida began computer classes, by 7:30 on the first morning all the classes were filled, which really made the CCU people envious. He admits, "Taida and Chengda have better reputations than we do. Taida merely has to offer a new course and it will immediately be filled, whereas we have to put in a lot more effort to pack in the students."

With his years of experience, Chang says: "You have to be very sensitive to what society wants. We dare to try new course offerings. Offering series of courses is something we thought of ourselves, and we continually consult with human resources experts on trends in the labor market."

The SCE does not depend on CCU to provide its faculty. "We have defined ourselves as being practically oriented, so we want a situation in which SCE teachers are never stumped by student questions. This is a very harsh challenge, so we often recruit faculty from the professional or business world," says Chang. In each and every course the administrators give students a questionnaire, and if the students have any complaints they immediately communicate these to the teacher. If the students' complaints are found to be justified but the teacher does not improve, then the teacher will be replaced.

Working the non-credit fields

In recent years, because the government has been in financial difficulty, subsidies to universities have steadily declined. Universities are all crying poor, and are searching for new sources of revenue. Many schools have turned to classes for credit, offering part-time degrees like EMBAs, charging NT$3000 to NT$10,000 per credit hour.

However, Chang does not think highly of the classes-for-credit market. It was only in September of this year that the SCE began offering their first for-credit class, a course in international business with 25 students and faculty from the UK, US, and PRC, for which they are charging students NT$15,000 per credit hour. "More than 100 universities are offering for-credit courses, and the more there are, the more people will have the impression that they are simply selling diplomas," he avers. This is all the more so given that the admission rate into university is now 60-70%, so how can there be that many people who need classes for credit?

"We are mainly focusing on the non-credit market, providing courses for lifetime learning," says Chang. When the economy is doing well, continuing education is an investment in oneself. When the economy is in a downturn, it is even more important to continue learning to secure one's job and increase one's competitiveness.

Currently the CCU School of Continuing Education has two buildings in Taipei City, with one on Chunghsiao East Road in addition to the one on Chienkuo. There is also a branch in the Taipei suburb of Hsinchuang. A few years ago they even began extending their reach to Taichung and Kaohsiung. Besides carrying on with what they already do well, the SCE will make distance learning a focus of future development, and they already offer 100 courses over the Internet. Chang has also laid out a three-year plan for raising quality. He hopes that within three years they can offer a full tuition refund, no questions asked, to any student at any time. "That might look like a money loser, but it will really pay off in the long run," says Chang, because this is the real key to creating a successful "brand name."

p.038

The School of Continuing Education at Chinese Culture University boldly invests in its programs and facilities, and now attracts more than 20,000 students per year. (photo by Yang Chien)

p.041

Private schools must be careful not to become overly dependent on tuition and fees for their funds. (Sinorama file photo)

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