USC has reached an unusual agreement with the University of Denver in which USC will transfer control of an international off-campus master's degree program involving 1,800 students to the Colorado institution.
If negotiations over the details can be worked out, the University of Denver will take over USC's master of science in systems management program, now offered at 56 locations around the world. The agreement was approved by the USC Board of Trustees late Wednesday and announced in Denver on Thursday.
Most of the students in the program are middle-level managers in industry and in the military who need management training before moving on to more responsible positions, according to USC officials.
USC decided on the unusual transfer, Executive Vice Provost Robert Biller said, because the university does not want to operate off-campus programs that are larger than the program's academic base in Los Angeles.
Biller said questions of quality control arise when large numbers of professors are offering courses at far-flung locations, although he added, "We believe the quality of the program is solid at present."
Hal W. Hendrick, interim executive director of the USC Institute of Safety and Systems Management, which operates the program, said the decision was made because large extension (off-campus) programs "have a history of being associated with institutions of lesser quality" and USC did not want to be in that academic company.
Getting rid of the program "was not an easy decision," Biller said. "We were providing a useful service and . . . the program was quite profitable," netting USC about $2 million a year.
USC will not receive any payment from the University of Denver but will share the program's revenues for five years.
About 30 faculty members who have been teaching these courses all over the world, under USC auspices, now will work for the University of Denver, Biller said.
The Institute of Safety and Systems Management will continue to function at USC, with a faculty of about 35. The institute offers several other master's degree programs, as well as courses for a small number of undergraduates. The institute also will continue to offer the master of science degree in systems management at about 10 locations in the Los Angeles area.
USC President James H. Zumberge and Provost Cornelius J. Pings made the decision to phase out the program and assigned Biller to find a possible taker.
About 20 institutions showed interest in the program, but the final choice came down to the University of Denver and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.
The Denver offer was accepted, Hendrick said, because Stevens Tech, while well known in the Northeast, does not have as broad a national reputation as the University of Denver.