Book Reviews

Book by Lawrence G. Dotolo and Anneke J. Larrance
Review by Ronald Banks
Associate Director, Corporate Enrollment and Academic Services
Charter Oak State College (CT)

Access to Higher Education Through Consortia is a collection of articles which address using consortia to increase access to higher education for “individuals from low socioeconomic and lower-middle-class backgrounds” (p. 1). This book would be an excellent resource for upper-level administrators (Academic Deans, Institutional Advancement, CEO) and provides strong anecdotal evidence in support of the benefits of consortia programs. While academic advising is obviously important to the success of students in a consortia program, and can be much more complex as a result of the increased options available to students, the focus of the articles is directed toward the structure and function of the featured programs, as well as the challenges and advantages of consortia programs.

Several challenges associated with consortia programs are identified. Logistical issues are addressed in several of the articles and touch upon a variety of topics including communication, organization, and program development. Perhaps the greatest challenge is competition. This can come from institutions that are not part of the consortium, as well as from within the consortium when members focus on promoting their own programs exclusively (p. 71). Buy-in at the CEO level is crucial to overcome these issues of territoriality, and articulation agreements can be a useful tool to resolve potential issues. Having a designated point of contact at each consortia institution is helpful in the event that a problem or issue does arise.

Advantages resulting from consortia programs are also presented in the articles. Consortia programs can draw on the strengths and resources of multiple institutions. The reduction in redundancy and the resulting efficiencies allow expanded and enhanced services to be offered, with each institution making contributions that tap into its existing programs, offerings, and resources. Consortia efforts to increase overall participation in higher education by facilitating the admission, transfer, and financial aid processes provide benefits to students and educational institutions alike (p. 30). The collegiality that can develop across institutions may result in increased professional development opportunities, networking events, and a higher quality of service to students. Finally, “[a] major benefit of consortia is the advantage of sharing the risks and costs of increased accessibility” (p. 96).

The collection of articles describes a diverse set of consortia programs. Some of the programs highlighted in the text work with students as early as the fifth grade to make college attendance seem more desirable and attainable, while another program was designed to improve access to graduate programs. Although the role of academic advisors was not a focus of these articles, it is easy to recognize the importance of having well-trained advisors who are familiar with consortia details, policies, and programs. Further discussion on the role of academic advising within consortia programs, particularly as to whether it should be based at the degree-granting institution or within the consortium, would certainly be valuable and interesting. 

Access to Higher Education Through Consortia (2007). Book by Lawrence G. Dotolo and Anneke J. Larrance, eds. Review by Ronald Banks. San Fransisco, CA: Wiley Periodicals (Jossey-Bass), 109 pp. Price $29.  ISBN: 978-0-470-18380-9
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