December 2008, Volume 12, Number 10


A landmark fuel-saving strategy


An increased enrollment at Miami Dade College’s Hialeah Campus has fueled a new approach to scheduling courses that is designed to cut commuting costs for students, promote curriculum enhancements for faculty and save the environment.

MDC has introduced ECO-FLEX just in time for students to register for their spring semester classes. The registration strategy allows students to take the equivalent of a full-time load of classes in one single day. The program departs from the conventional approach to course schedules that are staggered throughout the week. The result: Students save on fuel, dramatically reduce their commute time and stay on track to graduate in two years.

The idea for ECO-FLEX came about when administrators at Hialeah Campus noticed a 15 percent increase in fall semester enrollment. That 15 percent represents the largest gain from semester to semester for Hialeah Campus, said Nelson Magaña, campus director of student development and success.

“Our goal is to reach out to students and engage them in conversation during the registration process so that we can meet their needs,“ Magaña said. “While we did notice a percentage of students transferring, we set out to determine why we were experiencing the increase in enrollment for new students as well. As a result of the conversations, we determined that students were choosing to travel less to save on gas.”

Magaña estimates that a student who travels 15 miles to campus four days a week will save about $200 and 24 hours over the course of a single semester.

While the pilot program is still in its infancy, administrators like Magaña see ECO-FLEX as an opportunity to bridge concepts and courses in an interdisciplinary approach – a method that could prove beneficial to faculty.

By creating a cohort of students who concurrently take these lumped courses from semester to semester, professors can integrate activities and concepts such as ecology and sustainability into their curriculum – an environmentally friendly and cost-saving approach to teaching.

— Lourdes Barrera-Rodriguez

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