In 1876, the year the Johns Hopkins University
accepted its first class of students, it also opened up its
doors to nonmatriculated adults to take part in a series of
public lecture courses. In essence, the concept of a Johns
Hopkins education for part-time learners was born.
Today, adult education flourishes at the university as
thousands annually enroll in its various degree- and
certificate-granting programs. Last year the number of
master's degrees conferred on part-time students exceeded
the number of those conferred on full-time students.
A significant portion of these part-time students
participate in the School of Arts and Sciences'
Programs. Founded in 1992, the division initially
offered degree programs in biotechnology and writing; in
its first year, it enrolled almost 250 students. Today, the
AAP offers 10 master's degree programs and two certificate
offerings, and enrollments exceed 5,200 annually.
To guide the growth of this emergent division, Krieger
School Dean Daniel Weiss announced in October the
appointment of Sarah Steinberg to the new post of associate
dean of Advanced Academic Programs, a position she
officially assumed on Dec. 1.
As associate dean, Steinberg will be responsible for
strategic planning concerning all aspects of this growing
12-year-old graduate program for part-time students. The
AAP serves the regional community in disciplines such as
applied economics, bioinformatics, government, writing and
liberal arts and, more recently, drug discovery
technologies and homeland security. Its classes are offered
at the Montgomery County Campus, the Bernstein-Offit
Building in Washington — soon to be the
administrative headquarters for the AAP — and the
Steinberg worked for more than a decade at the Whiting
School of Engineering, where she had served since 2001 as
executive director of Engineering and Applied Science
Programs for Professionals. Before coming to Johns Hopkins
in 1993, she was a marketing manager and senior engineer at
Froehling and Robertson, an engineering firm in Sterling,
Va. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in
civil engineering from Cornell University and a master's
degree in finance and marketing from the Kellogg School of
Management at Northwestern University. She is currently
pursuing a doctorate in higher education management from
the University of Pennsylvania. Her thesis will analyze the
impact of part-time education at Johns Hopkins.
The Gazette sat down with Steinberg last week to talk
about the past, present and future of the Advanced Academic
Programs, which traces its roots to the 1947 founding of
what was then known as McCoy College.
Q: The AAP now offers 10 different programs. What is
driving this demand?
A: A lot of different reasons. When part-time
students are surveyed, they generally talk about the need
for change in a career or advancement in their current
career; those are right there at the top. Occasionally, and
this especially happens in programs like liberal arts and
writing, there are also personal enrichment goals.
The reason people go part time as
compared to full time is simply convenience and financial
reasons. When we ask why they come to Johns Hopkins, it's
the reputation and the fact the programs are convenient and
Q: Has something changed culturally or otherwise
that makes part-time education more attractive and
A: Adult education has its roots back to the
Colonial days. There has always been this desire to take
advanced education at the adult level. Today, across the
country there are almost 70 million people who consider
themselves part-time students. These are people over 17
going back for a GED or, the majority of whom, are on track
for a master's degree.
When Johns Hopkins got into the
business in 1876, we immediately began offering public
lectures. Hopkins had set up a format where 20 or so
courses each year were open to everybody, both men and
women, although Johns Hopkins was male-only at the time.
If you look at the national trends, the
interest in, or enrollment in, these adult education
courses has risen steadily all the way through the 1900s.
The real expansion started occurring in 1960. From that
point on, considerable growth in enrollment has occurred
across the country, and you can see the parallel growth at
Q: What about the recent growth? Is it responding to
A: Yes. It's driven by job growth and job changes.
It also means it's driven by what the economy is into and
what companies need.
Q: The AAP has recently added programs for a master
of science in bioscience regulatory affairs and a
certificate in homeland security. Will we continue to see
rapid growth in offerings at the AAP?
A: All of the programs are focused on the quality of
education that they are delivering. People are expecting a
level of service, easy access to billing or registration,
nice facilities. So growth has to be controlled in that you
want to be able to continue the quality of the academic
experience and not let that get out of hand. I think that
the real opportunity for growth in Arts and Sciences is not
necessarily in adding additional programs right away; it's
in developing collaborations and partnerships to find new
opportunities for the programs we are already offering.
I plan to reach out to organizations
that have employees that might be interested in our
programs so we can expand our reach even further. I will
also look for additional collaborations with other Hopkins
divisions. For instance, we have a master's degree program
in bioinformatics that is a joint degree between Arts and
Sciences and Engineering, and we have the M.S./M.B.A. in
biotechnology that is a joint degree between Arts and
Sciences and SPSBE. We are looking for ways of expanding
those programs into larger markets.
Q: Does having the Hopkins name attached bring with
it a certain level of expectation?
A: Yes. People expect the Hopkins product. They make
some assumptions about the quality of the program based on
the name. It's our responsibility to make sure that is
exactly what is delivered, that there is no difference
between these offerings and those that are in full-time
programs. A master's from the AAP is absolutely not a
second degree, or a part-time degree. It's the same quality
of education, just for a different purpose. And it's OK to
have a different purpose. It's about somebody who wants to
apply their degree immediately in their job. For example,
someone who is taking our bioinformatics degree wants to
right away be out there practicing in the field, and they
want to be able to get a job at a place like the Institute
for Genomic Research. Someone in a full-time master's
degree program, on the other hand, is probably headed
toward an academic- or research-oriented career, not
necessarily applying tomorrow what they [just] learned in
the classroom. So there are differences, but that does not
mean one is lesser quality than the other.
Q: Are there any concerns about rising tuition
A: We are sensitive to tuition levels, and in
setting them, we look both externally and internally. We
are concerned about covering our costs and having enough
funds to have a quality program. We are not going to cut
corners on that account. Externally, we are always looking
at the marketplace to see what the competition is offering
so we stay competitive.
Q: Do you see the faculty makeup changing much?
A: That is an issue that I will be working on with
the program chairs. I don't have a strong view on the topic
at the moment. It's always advantageous to have full-time
faculty teaching in the program, and there are. More of
them would be wonderful. On the other hand, it's also
wonderful to have practitioners in the classroom who bring
the value that they are out there in the work force focused
on any number of practical problems. I think a mix is a
Q: Is physical space an issue?
A: We are relocating by early spring 2005 all the
admissions and registration staff, and those in finance,
marketing and IT, down to 1717 Mass Ave. [the
Bernstein-Offit Building] in Washington. There is not an
abundance of space in Washington either, but we can do some
reconfiguring and put them all in a nice facility.
Consolidating all the administrative personnel there puts
us close to the center of gravity for our students so they
can benefit from better responsiveness and more
accessibility. But, yes, to answer your question, we are
always in need of space.
One of my goals is to make sure that
the facilities are the same at all of our locations. When a
faculty member walks in, they can expect the same thing
— a faculty lounge, a resource center, a mailbox,
administrative services, etc. The same with students; we
want the same level of service at all our campuses.
Q: Are there any plans for expanding marketing
A: We have a pretty substantial marketing program
already. But, yes, we will continue to look for new
marketing avenues; there is no question.
Q: How much has Johns Hopkins embraced professional
education for part-time students?
A: Every single school is working with part-time
students, one way or another. Johns Hopkins has a huge
commitment to educational programs to part-time learners,
and we passed the "threshold" in academic year 1992/1993,
the year the Advanced Academic Programs [then called the
Part-Time Graduate Programs] was founded: From that point
until today, the number of master's degrees conferred on
part-time students has exceeded the number of master's
degrees conferred on full-time students. The numbers are
Q: We have dropped the "part-time" moniker from the
name of the Arts and Sciences program. Why?
A: It does increasingly have a negative connotation.
We did a survey of the names across the country, and
"professional programs" has become the more common term.
The other term is "continuing education," but that has also
sort of dropped out of favor.
Q: Why is AAP good for Johns Hopkins?
A: One of the questions we must continue to ask is,
Why does the university have a commitment to part-time
education? There really are two reasons for the commitment.
One is that there is a public service obligation that the
university feels, and has felt, since the beginning, and it
hasn't changed — to reach out as a way of
disseminating the research that we have so successfully
accomplished and are accomplishing at the university.
Education is one way to disseminate those research results.
In the beginning, there were public lectures; today, it's
degrees and certificates. The MLA program here, for
example, has a long history, and there are people who would
rise in protest if we suddenly said we are not going to
have that program anymore. It's a public service.
The second reason is financial. I don't
think we should shy away from that. There are financial
reasons why we have other programs elsewhere in the
university as well. Part-time programs generate revenue
that is used to help develop and underscore the research
elements of the university. It is an important aspect of
the life cycle to the university. If you just focus on the
financial reasons, you get a distorted view, but it's one
reason we have part-time programs. It completely furthers
the mission of the university. It goes back to the
beginning. It's a core institutional value.
Q: Would you agree there might be some risk involved
in expanding too much and diluting the Johns Hopkins
A: Right. Which is why the answer to expanding is
not simply to get more students, offer more degrees so we
can make more money. Is it the appropriate program? Can we
do it in a quality way? Does it further the mission of the
university? If all of those things are satisfied, then
sure, we should expand.
Q: What are the main challenges you face?
A: Growth. We can't add programs just because George
Washington University or someone else has added a program
and we aim to go head-to-head with them. Again, it goes
back to the question, Does it make sense for Johns Hopkins
to do it?
I have a real simple vision for AAP,
and that is that I want it to be the highest-quality, most
sought-after part-time graduate program in Arts and
Sciences in the country. I didn't say I want it to be the
biggest; I want it to be the highest quality, because
people associate the name Johns Hopkins with the highest
quality. We are not going to have a program that drags down
I want it to be the most sought after
because I want it to set the best practices in the country
for student and faculty services so people say you have a
good experience if you come to AAP. You not only come to
learn what you've enrolled for, but you are going to
recommend it to someone else because it was a good
experience for you as well. Although we have sizable
marketing budgets, 70 percent of the students come because
a friend recommended the program to them.
For more about Advanced Academic Programs, go to